By Claudia Ricci
This image of the Virgin Mary comes from my friend Kellie Meisl, whose extraordinary piece of art, "Shattered Cups," adorns the cover of my new novel in paper (coming soon) Seeing Red.
It is very curious that Kellie Meisl presented me both of these images -- this dazzling photo of the Virgin and the mesmerizing image of the seductive woman in Seeing Red. The novel Castenata, the one that I am now writing, by blog (I started that book 16 years ago, but now that I am part of the Albany Times Union's Writing in Motion project, I am committed to finishing it by year's end, i.e., the next 31 days), is a story that at its core features the "virgin-whore" dichotomy. Sister Renata is both a devout nun, and, in the eyes of her lecherously ill cousin, Antonie, and his erotic tales, Renata is a seductive Spanish dancer who wearing blood-red lipstick and a flaming red satin dress.
The virgin-whore dichotomy is nothing new of course. Indeed, it appears to date back deep into antiquity, or so the authorities say. One such authority is Sarah B. Pomeroy, Distinguished Professor of Classics at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. In her book, Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves, Pomeroy explores the way women have been viewed through history. The virgin-whore dichotomy plays into this history big-time.
Now there is another binary, or set of binaries, operating in my new work: there is the sacred versus the profane; the mother vs, the "whore." And there are more binaries, which I will explore in future posts.
Meanwhile, thanks once again to my incredibly intuitive and very gifted artist/writer friend Kellie Meisl, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, who does Dream Art. Lately I have begun to feel that Kellie and I are on some cosmically-directed journey, with our lives and our art doing a complex dance of inspiring each other.
Kellie sent me this image of the Virgin and then followed up with an email saying, "I can't open the image I sent you." At which point I offered to post it on one of my numerous blogs.
And when I posted it, voila, I realized the significance of the pair of images that Kellie has provided me in recent days. The highly erotic and seductive cover image of Seeing Red, and the ghostly blue and sparkling image of the Virgin.
Unknowingly, by sending me the Virgin image last night, Kellie made me see in a crystal clear way -- as clear as that sparkling blue sky surrounding the Virgin's halo -- that my new blog novel Castenata is informed by a number of binaries. I know that my writer friend Peg, who has read every one of the thousands of pages I've written trying to get that novel "write," would agree. She has frequently pointed out the binaries in the nun novel. There have been four or five versions of the books, with different characters, but there were always two sisters in the book. There was always one sister who was scientific and rational, and another sister who was bonkers and religious.
Sister Mysteries, an on-line book, is part of the Albany Times Union's Writing In Motion project. The project features seven writers committed to completing writing projects by the end of the year. Sister Mysteries contains within it a novel called Castenata -- a time-travel murder mystery featuring a nun, Sister Renata, who in 1883 was falsely accused of murdering her cousin Antonie. Renata's version of the story is contained within her diaries on the Castenata site. Artist Kellie Meisl is a Pittsfield, Massachusetts artist who relies on dreams as a springboard for her work. In 2009, she published her first book, Dream Stories: Recovering the Inner Mystic. Kellie can be reached through her website, KellieMeislDreamArt.