Women have only their Chains to Lose (oil, 1972)

The Lovers

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Women have only their
Chains to Lose (oil, 1972)

The Lovers (oil, 1975)

I helped found the Bristol Women’s Liberation Group in 1969 and during the whole of the 70s I was involved in feminist grassroots activism and campaigns, some of which I took the initiative, such campaigns as WACC (Women’s abortion and contraception campaign), working with unsupported mothers in the Claimants’ Union, Wages for Housework, the Gay Women’s Group as well as the Women’s arts movement and Matriarchy movement.

The first women artists show took place in London at the Woodstock Gallery in 1971 and around the same time I, together with Anne Berg, wrote a feminist arts manifesto and published newsletters on women’s art that I called “Towards a Revolutionary Feminist Art”. Many of my paintings from the 70s portray women’s struggle for liberation against oppression, women seeking justice, women working and women of different races. Women worldwide have systematically been deprived of our livelihoods and are barely able to survive with our children. We don’t own land even though we were the original farmers and cultivators. Everywhere the patriarchal religion centred around a male disembodied god-head who doesn’t indwell in creation and his celibate male priesthoods are used to justify the disempowennent and denigration of women. Women are profane and men sacred in such religions. To me, women’s spirituality and politics are not separate and “the personal is political”.

The understanding of ancient Goddess religion is a necessity as it reflects back to us an entirely different way of being and living, one of mutuality between women and men, one in which men were not warlike and aggressive and where women were proud and strong …. as mothers, as farmers, as oracles and shamankas, as healers, as creators of pottery, weaving, textiles and much else. Knowing that such cultures did exist gives me hope for the future as patriarchy is neither natural nor inevitable.

“Women have only their Chains to Lose” (1972) and “Lovers” (1975), both six feet high, were painted during this time of tremendous anger as well as joy and optimistic energies rising in women. Many women discovering their love for each other.

Next: Sheela-Na-Gig Creation