I direct gender specific programs at Children and Family Urban ministries. The Whyld Girls program is in its 9th year. Watching girls grow and find their voices always brings a deep joy to me that has few words for expression. Each year we create a program theme that layers and weaves itself through expressions of writing, poetry, performance and artistic expression. “About Face” is this year’s program theme. The girls are beginning to name the pressures of media and a culture of consumerism that attempts to dictate the perfect shape of each face and body. There are few places to celebrate the unique shape and face of each girl. This is what we work to do in the Whyld Girls.
Linda Lewis, an Iowa Artist who specializes in clay sculptures, provided the girls an opportunity to shape their person and face in an original sculpture. Through the week clay girls, who were giddy, grounded and wise, begin to take shape and rise out of the creative movement of the clay.
We started cutting large skirts textured with designs and words. Then we learned to shape bodies, breasts and butts. Next were the arms positioned to show an attitude and necks that held heads that were turned to the sky, or perhaps gazing straight ahead. The clay girls evolved through the week. The shapes came from the creative imagination as well as the connection of hands to clay, subconsiously shaping the figure . The hair crowned each sculpture: flowing, curled, stacked high, short, tucked under but the focal point of the piece remained fixed on that large skirt….those words and designs seem to find their expression in every other part of the clay sculpted body. Scarves, hats, jewelry, glazes highlighted the personality of each figure. Not one looked alike. All were stunning and beautiful.
Each night I walked into our make shift art studio to find a life of liberation evolving under the plastic covering of clay girls. The plastic kept the clay soft so that it could continue to be shaped through the week. During our journaling time the girls shared about how easy it was to change the clay and the shapes with just a drop of water. They didn’t have to worry about mistakes. One of the girls reflected that she had to learn to follow Linda’s instructions to handle the clay gently rather than kneading it with her fists. We learned that if you keep kneading and pressing the clay it will break down and you will have to start again with new clay. She reflected, “That is how it is with my life sometimes. I knead it to death rather than being gentle with myself.”
One night I had a dream or a vision. I am not sure which. I saw the figures come to life during the night hours, liberating themselves from the sheet of plastic. They found each other in common hopes and dreams; they celebrated each other’s differences and strengths. When the sun began to rise they went back under the plastic cover, waiting for a time to be set free to teach their creators the joy of knowing oneself and the possibility of shaping one’s life.
on the journey……………celebrating life….Naomi