Monica Sjöö was a self-taught artist and writer born in Sweden in 1938. She was also an activist in the British Women’s Liberation Movement. Sjöö was also the main author of Towards a Revolutionary Feminist Art in 1971, one of the most militant, feminist art manifestos that it was widely discussed in the feminist press and received a response from The Guardian.
Sjöö published Woman Power in the first issue of Enough, a women’s liberation journal produced in Bristol. She spent many years studying ancient women’s lunar mysteries and goddess-worshipping religions.
God Giving Birth
This is her most famous work, painted in 1968, which depict a woman giving birth and it is inspired by a goddess-worshipping religion.
According to the artist, it was inspired in the home-birth of her second son, a birth that she experienced for the first time the power of her woman’s body, as a first initiation to the Great Mother (the goddess of the Universe) and all the energy evolved. She said that this birth changed her life making her question the patriarchal culture we live in.
The painting was censored multiple times and during the art exhibition Five Women Artists: Images of Womanpower it aroused such controversy that public complains led to a police report with legal charges of blasphemy and obscenity.
After the experience of giving birth to her first child, she rejected the abstraction painting. It was then when she started her research on matriarchal cultures and ancient woman-centred religions founded upon worship of goddess figures and mysteries based on the lunar cycles. those references to this research as birth, female body and nature were often used in her paintings; and it were central to her belief regarding her Cosmic Mother.
To some writers, as Starhawk, her work transformed ancient images and symbols into contemporary icons of female power.
- Sjöö was the subject of a film documentary shown at the ICA and NFT.
- Monica Sjöö wrote the original pamphlet that later she rewrites with Barbara Mor and become the book The Great Cosmic Mother (1987). A book that covers women’s ancient history ad the origin of religion, it is one of the first books to propose that humanity’s earliest religious and cultural belief systems were created and first practised by women. Her successful use of interdisciplinarity in her research and writing helped to uncover the hidden history of some ancient matriarchal cultures.
- From 70’s her art and writing became well known outside of UK and she had an extensive correspondence with American writers and artists as Lucy Lippard or Judy Chicago.
- Book: Reckitt, H. and Phelan, P. 2012. Art and Feminism. Phaidon
- Art Cornwall
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