Washed Out Visual art by Gretchen Gales

River Daughters I

RIVER-DAUGHTERS, I, II, III, 2020 (Watercolor on canvas, 32.3 W x 46.5 H x 13 in), is a watercolor series that examines the beauty of womanhood and femininity. In the Yorubá tradition of mother Africa, the river goddess Oshun is the incorporation of love, fertility and sensuality, she is the essence and the nectar of life, the protector and guardian of women and children, along with her sister Yemaya that rules over the seas.

To understand the beauty of women is to honour her daughters, their vitality, intelligence and caring and nourishing abilities. The strength and resilience of womankind has been historically overlooked, women are many times over-worked and exploited, but always committed to watering their communities and ensuring the survival of humanity. They’re clothed in the gold of Oshun, that will not rust or tarnish, even if in tatters and aggrieved by poverty, their wealth is eternal, they nourish us with their spiritual warmth and devotion. They are the embodiment of love, the womb of humankind, pouring their ever-flowing and divinely sanctioned waters of life over our parched souls.

I used the fluidity and dreamlike quality of watercolors to represent the gentleness of the element of water, with its prism of colors, its ebbs and flows and contrasting tones. I added natural elements that suggest a notion of calmness and hope, as the beautiful river-daughters make new life flourish all around us and remind us to celebrate life with grace and sweetness.

Helena Barbagelata (b. 1991) studied philosophy, art, literature and politics and was the recipient of several fellowships from the Onassis Foundation/University of Athens, University of Barcelona, University of Trieste, among others. Helena is a multidisciplinary artist, fashion model and researcher, that works predominantly in the medium of painting, but includes mixed media in her larger scale installations. Her artworks combine mixed media, acrylics, ink and watercolor techniques and have been exhibited in Europe, South America and the United States. Helena is also an author and curator in several literary publications.


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