I began the Women of Spirit: Photographs of Women over 40 Project in the winter of 1999 when, somewhat unexpectedly, I found myself a single parent raising a 15 year old son and a 12 year old daughter. As I worked to give my children a solid foundation for their future the issues of body image, peer pressure, religious dogma, personal sexuality, and media manipulation took center stage. As I adjusted to my new life and this all-important roll, I found that the lessons and values that we learn in our early years stay with us for a lifetime - both the positive ones and the negative ones. My personal transformation, the divine intervention of a very dear friend, who is part of this project, and this all important responsibility combined to offered the perfect motivation and opportunity to reflect, focus and begin this art project and further the discussion of what is really of value in our lives and how we can go about becoming whole happy human beings.
The media, inescapable marketing campaigns and the jack hammer of political correctness have created a culture that constantly works to shape us with the message that we can never have self worth or be happy unless we buy into the PC peer pressure dogma, have the perfect shape "you can never be too thin..." white teeth, fresh breath, a stylish spouse, with a perfect body - of course, and buy the all of right stuff - "...or too rich" "the person with the most toys wins". Religion tells us that we will never find spiritual salvation unless we give everything to Church/God because we are all sinners, unclean and unworthy. With those messages and try as we might we can never reach the goal of self worth and happiness - very depressing– but of course various pharmaceutical companies have a cure for that – for a price.
These women who are the heart and soul of this project and the spirit they exhibit in their images and their writings turn inside out the idea that we can diet, buy, pray or drug our way to happiness. These women have taken the bold step to reveal themselves in body and soul to make this statement: Real beauty and happiness come from doing the hard work of dealing with life’s challenges, listening to our inner voice, dancing to our inner music and letting our light and beauty shine through to the world. Some of them simply wanted the world to see that they are beautiful, desirable and proud.
I sincerely hope that you will find these images meaningful and that this will be an important first step in finding new stories and inspire women to have the courage, as these have, to come forward get involved, tell their story and move this discussion forward. I hope to have 20+ more women involved and the project completed in 2013.