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Merilee Bennett is a maker, artist, creator.


Inanna Descending

Merilee Bennett


The image above, is of the Little Goddess titled Inanna Descending, completed the night before my show opened at Montsalvat two years ago. She mystified me as I was working on her. Even with the beading completed, her face and her body were blank. Pink, but blank. I painted onto her in small letters - ‘who are you, who are you’, then, ‘I am, I am, I am’, over and over. It was as if she was saying, ‘let me emerge, let me show you who I am without your imposed ideas of who I might be’. Then I painted her face and her skin, which seems scarred, full of heat and steam. Her face holds no angst, no resistance. She is half here in the visible world and half in the invisible. She is not transcendent, but fully embodied. She holds both pain and beauty, suffering and compassion.

The Sumerian story of Inanna’s descent, in essence, is the story of the Queen of Heaven descending to meet with her sister, the Queen of the Underworld, Erishkegal, who is in deep and terrible grief. Rather than greet her sister with welcome, Erishkegal hangs Inanna up on a meat hook to perish, to share her suffering, to be utterly brought down. She hangs there for three days and three nights, and is saved only by two tiny creatures made from the dirt under the fingernails of her god-uncle Enki. These little beings respond to Erishkegal with empathy, with compassion, with kindness, and she rewards them by releasing Inanna.

Much more can be read of this rich tale in the book “Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth” by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer, published 1983.

After a bronze Assyrian Mother Goddess, currently in the antiquities collection of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. This is her great great great grand-daughter.

After a bronze Assyrian Mother Goddess, currently in the antiquities collection of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. This is her great great great grand-daughter.

There are nearly thirty new Little Goddesses, stitched and painted and beaded, and I’ve begun the next stage of this project. I’m working on a series of body casts, of women of different ages, sizes, stages of life. I’m taking the plaster cast from the body, then creating a mold so I can duplicate the forms, and make several of each to be painted, collaged, adorned in different ways. My youngest model so far is 14, my oldest is 75. I have pregnant bellies, and women at 20, 40, 60, 65. There are delicate forms and robust voluptuous forms of the body. They’re all beautiful. I’m still looking for an athlete, a trans woman, a very big woman, a woman in her 90s, a woman with mastectomy or other scars. There will be others as time goes by.

Works in Progress

Works in Progress

Now it’s February 2019. Since I last wrote for this blog, I’ve turned 60, gone to Death Valley in California to do a Vision Fast with the School of Lost Borders, done a residency at Montsalvat, travelled to the Coorong in South Australia to do weaving lessons with Aunty Ellen Trevorrow, and I’ve become a grandmother. I was there 3 months ago, in October 2018, to witness and support my daughter giving birth to her darling baby boy. What a rite of passage! What a joy! What an explosion of love!

The Earth is still in danger, and human beings are still behaving like we’re not all interconnected with everything and everyone, as if we’re not all mirrors for each other. Many of us are familiar with despair, which is a kind of hopeless stagnancy. It’s like the grief and heavy heartedness of Erishkegal, howling down there in the underworld, taking hold of our brightness and optimism and hanging it up on a meat hook to whither away, our fertility of mind and heart, our sense of effectiveness, our generosity and grace. There is something unavaoidable in this. We all have our turn at grief. We all descend. We all have the opportunity to learn compassion and humility. For the sake of our earth, and our children and grandchildren, may it be so. May we rise up, over and over, with blossoming hearts, eyes shining soft and fierce with empathy and connection.