Dancing by the Light of the Moon
The Goddess of Prosperity
This painting was created for Beatrex Quntanna’s annual workbook, Living by the Light of the Moon: 2015 Moon Book, and her “2015 Year of Prosperity” wall calendar. The theme of the year, according to the numerology, is prosperity, so of course I chose the Goddess of Prosperity herself to grace the cover! She is Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of prosperity, abundance, wealth, and beauty. She was born of the sea and is often depicted with the Moon, representing her brother. I wanted to do something less traditional, and went with a more illustrative look.
Putting prosperity in motion—I got the vision Lakshmi needed to be dancing, rather than her normal seated or standing position, and I felt really strongly about it. As a dancer myself, I knew that in Indian classical dance forms, every pose, every hand gesture, had meaning, and I didn’t want to ignore that. I also wasn’t sure how inappropriate a dancing Lakshmi might be (there is still a cultural climate in many parts of the world in which dance is associated with prostitution!). So I researched Lakshmi herself and the cultures she originates from, spoke to a few ladies from India, and researched Indian dance. I figured out which was considered the most feminine of dance postures, and from there, I discovered she is already depicted in this particular posture in many statues and images! I had just never noticed it before.
Creating the Painting
This was painted with acrylic on Birch hardboard. I set out to depict the Moon in an abstracted way, but I’m glad Beatrex suggested I take it further—I digitally added the Moon you see in the finished art, and I love the result. I had originally planned to crop the finished art for the cover, so I painted the mandala around her to give me plenty of space to decide how to crop it later. Only later, we decided it was worth using the whole image.
This was the first time I’d done a painting like this on hardboard, and possibly the last. At least until I’ve forgotten how big of a pain this was. It’s so smooth—unlike the texture of stretched canvas, there was nothing to grab the paint, so it was difficult to layer it without bringing up the layer beneath. It took about four times longer to finish than I had anticipated.
Indian Classical Dance
The dance posture, called Tribhanga, comes from Odissi, a dance style I initially zeroed-in on because it’s the form represented in traditional Indian sculpture. It consists of three bends in the body, creating a sensual S-shape. I tried it myself standing in front of the mirror, and it takes a lot of balance!
Photo by Madhumita Raut