'Seeds of Change' ties artwork into hunger project


Imagine a neolithic site unearthed on a hill in Union Bridge.

Imagine a site with a larger-than-life, one-ton sculpture of a sleeping goddess. There would also be "artifacts" and "diaries" lying about that pay homage to a time when women were honored for their life-giving powers and their connection to Mother Earth.

This premise is the basis for the "Seeds of Change" art exhibit at the Carroll County Arts Council Gallery, 15 E. Main St. in Westminster. There will be a reception for the opening at the gallery from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The exhibit is part of a yearlong effort by Union Bridge sculptor Jo Israelson to draw attention to hunger and environmental problems.

The process began when she started research to learn more about images that were appearing in her work.

"All of the sculptures have been coming out of me for the past three or four years," said Ms. Israelson. "When I started looking at the images, they were from the neolithic period."

Some of the images were of snakes, which were thought to represent regeneration; doves, which represented the soul; and moons, which were symbols of women and of the cycle of life.

Her search led her to Malta, where she learned about the non-war-based goddess temples from the neolithic, which stretched from about 8000 B.C. to 3500 B.C. The temples were shaped like women's bodies and symbolized the communities' reverence for the Earth.

The community would also plant food around the temples. While in Italy, Ms. Israelson sculpted a "Sleeping Goddess" and it was during her attempt to ship it back to Carroll County that she came up with an idea to incorporate everything into a hunger-relief effort.

"It all just came together after that," she said.

In the nine months since, Ms. Israelson said, she has "given birth" to the one-ton "Sleeping Goddess" sculpture and a grass-roots movement to fight hunger.

Volunteers have come forward to donate land on Leaseway Farm and services to re-create a temple site that will be used to grow buckwheat to feed the hungry.

The project has been filled with little coincidences.

"I did a 'Renewal Table' piece before I went to Malta that holds water and has carvings of snakes," Ms. Israelson said. "The temples [in Malta] all have places where you wash your hands and feet."

In one of her pieces, Ms. Israelson sculpted a "bee woman." She later found out that bees appeared in a lot of neolithic artwork because of the importance of honey and bread.

The exhibit is one step in the "Seeds of Change" project. There will be a metaphorical seed planting and equinox celebration from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. March 20, which will include the installation of the "Sleeping Goddess" sculpture. There will also be a showing of "Women, Art and Spirituality," a film screening and panel discussion from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. March 27 at Western Maryland College.

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