The Power of Womanhood: Sacred Sculptures
By Heather PalleikoAfter the birth of my first daughter in 1999 I was determined to find a unique and beautiful way to preserve a moment in time from my next pregnancy, if my husband and I were lucky enough to conceive again. Little did I know that in the three and half year time span before getting pregnant again, I would discover life casting.
My field of training being in metal smithing, I needed to find a different way to honor pregnant women – a way that included the woman herself. It was at that time when I recalled the casting process I used to create multiple pieces of metalwork at the same time. If I could create a mould and cast it for metalwork, why couldn’t a similar process be used on pregnant women to create beautiful sculptures? As I recalled the work of George Segal, a renowned life caster, I began researching life casting and discovered that there was a whole group of artists that were life casters associated with the Association of Lifecasters International or ALI. I immediately joined and began creating test pieces and working with various materials. After a couple months I was ready to venture out on my own working in a new medium.
As an artist I find that most of my inspiration comes from nature. Simple organic lines that form such graceful shapes are truly divine. Beautiful curves occur naturally in the human figure and are accentuated tremendously in the empowered form of the pregnant woman. These words – divine, empowered, even warrior – they are words that embody the female spirit, yet not usually chosen when describing women or the feminine. I wanted to honor these aspects of women while exhibiting their grace and beauty. To show their form and the power and strength that resides in the blossoming womb – the ability to create and nurture new life.
Creating life sculptures of pregnant women is a very unique way to capture a moment from ones pregnancy. Not only is the process of taking the mould soothing and relaxing, the mould itself takes the shape of the woman’s belly at that very moment in time – the shape of her belly, the way the baby is laying, the size, even the tenderness the expecting mother exhibits towards her unborn child as she gently cradles her belly in her hands.
After the mould is taken, it is carefully formed by trimming it to achieve the basic desired shape it will have when the sculpture is complete. Then the plaster masque is re-enforced with more plaster and set aside to cure for 2-3 days. After curing, the mould begins its transformation into a beautiful sculpture to be cherished for years to come. This transformation begins with the plaster being sealed. Then the mould is painted, embellished or given a faux finish based upon the preferences of the client.
I love my work as a life caster. Every time I work with a pregnant client I am reminded of the divine power of women. Our ability to create and nurture life, to grow another being in our wombs and the the unbelievable strength we are given to birth new life. I see the beautiful roundness of a growing belly and am reminded of how truly sacred womanhood is.
Many women are now following the growing trend to have belly sculptures created during their pregnancies. This form of art provides a sensual, erotic and powerful look at the warriors also known as mothers. A few years ago my oldest daughter read a fortune from a fortune cookie. It read, “Mothers are the only Goddesses in which the whole world truly believes.” I firmly believe that ALL women are Goddesses, and through my work, I hope to show that we as women have the right to own our Power…our Truth, our Story.
About the Author
A professional artist for over ten years, Heather studied at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA where she focused on sculpture, jewelry design, and metal smithng. In addition to her extensive freelance work, she has also worked as an advertising designer and layout artist. Heather resides in the Los Angeles, CA area with her husband and two children, where she continues her work as a life sculptor.
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