It’s very powerful to know from whom you come. I met an artist in Denver this weekend, Alissa Hansen, who has found a beautiful and powerful way to keep a girl tethered to her feminine, maternal lineage. I wrote more about why this might matter to girls, how it can help them be more powerful in the world, in Maternal Lineage, several years ago.
Christiane Northrup, in Mother-Daughter Wisdom, writes about an exercise she does with women, asking them to call for the wisdom, power and positive energy of the mothers and grandmothers who came before her. The exercise asks women to call forth the assistance of their maternal lines by name. She says the women find a source of extreme power, guts, courage, and wisdom they never knew they had access to before. These women and their energy, she says, are out there willing us forward, rooting for our wins and giving us a little helping hand, this will become more true as we learn to rely on it and ask for it.
Alissa traced her family line back for six generations through her mother’s genealogy. She found out where the women lived, what kinds of lifestyles they lived, and conceptualized them in a series of Ancestor Portraits.
The details of the art are meaningful. The background is a map of the ancestor’s home. The body of the woman is the page of a book or hymn that the woman loved, or might of have loved, maybe a special page of the Bible which brought her great peace. Alissa then fills in the blanks and paints a portrait based on a portrait you give her, or conjure up with your imagination based on what you can find out.
On the sides of the 3×3 piece, you can’t see it here, are important dates from the woman’s life: birth, death, marriage and date of her daughter’s birth. The pieces are hung vertically on the wall, so the women are hung in order: great-great, great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, daughter.
Often there was no photography of the women in Allissa’s own line of grandmothers, so she imagined these farm women from Nebraska had one really fine dress and imagined, based on the fashions from that time period, what that dress might look like. As census information began taking on more color and information – like whether the women were literate, what their incomes and professions were, her pieces took on more color and meaning. She was very excited by little pieces of information she might garner, like that one of the women had red hair.
Alissa only needs to add herself and her wonderful daughter to her collection.
Imagine, as a girl, walking by this beautiful lineage of women, imaging what their lives were like and knowing on some level that these role models have her back when the going gets tough.
Alissa will do Ancestor Portraits on commission, collecting and gathering information from you and making each one unique and honoring your family line. Each piece costs $75.
Alissa Hansen’s work can be seen at AlissaHansen.com.
Tracee Sioux is a Law of Attraction Coach at www.traceesioux.com. She is the author of Love Distortion: Belle, Battered Codependent and Other Love Stories. Contact her at email@example.com.