Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, was the name given to history's first recorded goddess by the ancient Sumerians, a Babylonian people who lived some 4,000 years ago between what is today Baghdad and the Persian Gulf.
Inanna possessed awesome powers as well as great wisdom, so it's no wonder painter Edna Emmet, whose lovely exhibition opens at Resurgam Gallery tonight, was inspired to create dozens of abstract-expressionist paintings inspired by this female deity's legend.
Emmet, who teaches art at the Waldorf School and other area institutions, scrupulously avoids recognizable images in her paintings, which are full of saturated colors and sensual, abstract forms and whose passionate intensity approaches that with which the ancients must have worshipped their goddess. Born in Poland and educated in Israel, England and Switzerland, Emmet, now in her 50s, has traveled extensively in Europe and spent several years in a Zen Buddhist temple in Japan.
"Now I try to stay still geographically and make the journey on canvas in my studio," Emmet says. "My hope is that viewers will find their own relationships [in my paintings] and make their own journeys within."
The largest pieces in the show are mural-scale canvases reminiscent of the heroically scaled works of such 1950s-era masters as Franz Kline and Mark Rothko, with luminous color harmonies of reds, blues and yellows that shimmer and pulsate on the retina.
"Being a woman myself, and an older woman, and having a daughter, I got so excited reading about Inanna's soul journey from her adolescence - where she confronts her fears and her sexuality - through her womanhood, her descent into the underworld and finally her ascension to divinity, Emmet says.
The show at Resurgam is a preview for a larger exhibition of Emmet's Inanna series slated to open in January at Villa Julie College. In the meantime, it's an excellent introduction to Emmet's persuasive blend of ancient spiritualism and modernist aesthetics.
The show runs through Dec. 27. The gallery is at 910 S. Charles St. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Call 410-962-0513.
For more art events, see page 34.