Our Lady of Impenetrable Sanity

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OUR LADY OF IMPENETERABLE SANITY

Modeled after St. Dymphna. After her mother died, Dymphna’s father went into a deep depression and became mentally unbalanced. Hid feelings for his daughter turned to lust and why Dymphna rejected him and fled, he hunted her down and had her beheaded.

Before her murder, she opened a clinic for the poor and sick and believed in working on mental as well as physical ills. In art she is portrayed as the ‘demon slayer’ as at that time most mental illness was deemed possession by demons and/or need for conversion.

In some older versions of her portraits, she is, seen with a sword pricking the neck of a demon; symbolizing her title of Demon Slayer.

Throughout history, women have been persecuted for there diminished coping skills and mental acuity. Hysteria is undoubtedly the first mental disorder attributable to women, described in the second millennium BC, and until Freud considered an exclusively female disease. Over 4000 years of history, this disease was considered from two perspectives: scientific and demonological. It was cured with herbs, sex or sexual abstinence, punished and purified with fire for its association with sorcery and finally, clinically studied as a disease and treated with innovative therapies.

Today we are still shamed an ostracized (even by ourselves), for the need to seek help, treatment or medication for mental illness, especially for working professionals and mothers where the need to constantly be ‘as good as or better than’ is the social norm.

In the painting, her halo is a gear, a ‘cog’. Mental health care is an industry and she is connected to it by her old-fashioned electro shock therapy conduits. Her crown rests on top. Her belief in herself her glory. An angel rests on one side. A devil on the other, representing the theory that mental illness can be explained away as the demonic. The severed neck of St. Dymphna is represented. The covering failing to hide it, as if removal of the head would solve all her problems. She is clad in blue, her attempt to cover herself in calm. She holds a book as if to shield herself and force us to look at it-the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

 

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