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Goddess of the Bookshelf
About the Goddess of Spectacles and Bookshelves

The Goddess of Spectacles and Bookshelves is my miniature muse, a concept familiar to those who have also worked with Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. My tiny muse sat on my shelf for several years, among the other artistic clutter of whatnots, until I began to create the photographs for this website. It was then that she assumed her rightful status as guardian of reference works and reminder of the oooohhhhh nature of word discoveries.

My goddess is a hollow polymer clay figure conceived and crafted by artist Lilian Canouet of Galveston, Texas. Lilian's woooman (from her series she titles "Wooomen") is hollow to accommodate mysterious bits of something that make her a rattle. It is this rattle quality, as well as her rounded mouth in perpetual wonder and awe, that gives me visions of many wooomen dancing in the moonlight, singing and shouting and shaking their rattles in celebration of the awe and wonder of this female form of life that roughly half the world inhabits.

No doubt, Lilian has her own vision of her artwork, perhaps more expressive and less analytical. That's the way of art. Once we give it to the world, it no longer contains our meaning, but becomes the meanings of the observers. I think this quality in art is its greatness. The artist may have one point to make (and maybe that is the serious business of having a great deal of creative fun), but the piece is created with the whole being, unintentionally leaving unexpressed bits and pieces of one's life.

Doris Lessing's "feminist" masterpiece, The Golden Notebook, was written, she says, as a comment about mental "breakdown," a theme that is found to varying degrees in all her fiction. Lessing does not own her identification with feminism. She considers the feminist revolution, which she labels "Women's Liberation," as insignificant and forgettable against a background of the survival issues manifest in nuclear weapons and humanity's unceasing need to systematically destroy parts of itself.

After years of frustrating denial that her book was about women's issues, in her new preface to a reissue of The Golden Notebook, she wrote, "All sorts of ideas and experiences I didn't recognise as mine emerged when writing." She has not just reconciled herself to the notion that people generally do not understand her intended meaning, but rather she has grown to celebrate and approve of this phenomenon:

. . . it is not only childish of a writer to want readers to see what he sees, to understand the shape and aim of a novel as he sees it -- his wanting this means that he has not understood a most fundamental point. Which is that the book is alive and potent and fructifying and able to promote thought and discussion only when its plan and shape and intention are not understood, because that moment of seeing the shape and plan and intention is also the moment when there isn't anything more to be got out of it.

With such a celebrated authority as Doris Lessing to shore up my rationale, I hope that Lilian will forgive me for giving her woooman my own serious and deep meanings that she most likely never intended.

Note: Lilian Canouet's Woooman and other art works are featured in Suzanne J. E. Tourtillott (Ed.), 400 Polymer Clay Designs: A Collection of Dynamic & Colorful Contemporary Work, 2004.

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