"I was particularly attracted to the beautiful, poignant “Spirit of the Goddess” series of Lilian Sten-
Nicholson. These mysterious, spiritual and perfectly framed miniatures had the strength
of Russian icons, and worked superbly, individually or together. If I could have chosen a
Christmas gift from the show it would have been at least a pair of these precious gems".
Sir Henry Fraser. from review of '!BEHOLD! Women's work" GCA. Barbados 2013.
"Spirit of the Goddess" ( oil on canvas 2007-2010) is a series of small, reduced palette paintings. Despite their size,( the largest is 5x6 inches), and predominant earth tones, they exude a quiet intensity.
They are visual expressions of the feminine principle: the strength and resilience of earth itself.
Spirit of the Goddess' ‘came through my hand’, but, there is a story behind these paintings.They are part of my life story-and they are ancestral.
I married into a Caribbean family in 1963, and I wear the golden bracelets of my Mother-in Law. She gave the first one to me on the birth of my first of my five children in 1964, the second shortly before she left this world in 1978.
The bracelets are stamped with the year 1838. They had belonged to her great grandmother, a woman who was a slave, but bought the freedom of each of her children at birth. She also bought her own freedom the day before slavery was abolished.
These bracelets have since been handed down to the women in the family. I wear them with pride and humility.
The women in my Caribbean family also knew the history and genealogy of the family- on the female side- from the first African ancestor who was slaved from the Congo in the 17th century, through many twists of race, place and social status, 400 years of struggles, losses and triumphs, all recorded in their minds and passed on as important oral history - among the women only.
The men were raised to function strictly within the colonial and post-colonial societies of the Caribbean and were fed other narratives to sustain them in that pursuit.
I painted the “Spirit of the Goddess” series over a period of three years I work with many layers of media and meaning. For this series I used a resist method; the under-painting consists of water-based black ink painted over randomly applied brush strokes of white oil.
This was followed by the over-painting, defining the images through the use of black, white and earth colored oils- often scraped out and painted again and again, until just the right blend of brilliant light and weathered wood was achieved.
The paintings are ‘intuitive’ in that I did not plan the images, but allowed them to emerge from the canvas 'through my hand’.
But, I have always believed them to be ancestral portraits of the strong Caribbean women of my family, and as their bloodline passed through me into my children, I was given a glimpse of that ancestry.
“The Spirit of The Goddess” was a gift from them to me.
Creating a work of art is a dialogue between the artists and the work, a conversation, which is continued by successive viewers of the finished piece.
Because a title might limit personal interpretation, the paintings in this series will remain nameless until ‘baptized’ by their new owners.
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