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The Three Graces
Julie Schnell-Madden

These sculptures, expressing the human form, are inspired by the Graces or Charites of Greek mythology - Aglaea (splendor), Euphrosyne (mirth) and Thalia (good cheer). They are intended to be set in groups of two or three each possessing qualities of their own while embracing the strength of the others. They are draped, in preference of nude, concealing a rich history; their age and form is obscured by erosion and time. Stripped of detail with a bone-like surface, they reveal nothing at first glance, yet hint at the body beneath. Each piece is made up of three parts: a head, a heart (middle section), and a body (base).

The body ofttimes references a ship or vessel; some as imposing as battleships, some as slight as fluttering sails. There are bodies that suggest shark fins; cruising, circling, and waiting. Some resemble dancers, both light and airy. The heart varies from a strong, solid form, clearly holding its own, to a thin, delicate twig, barely strong enough to support the head. Some are stretched to unimaginable heights, while some are barely there at all. The strength or fragility found inside each piece is determined by the individual. The head is abstracted to the minimum, kept anonymous to resemble “every woman”. The angle and pose of each head suggests mood, demeanor, state-of-mind, and intention.
Throughout the construction process, I intermittently caught myself thinking about the imperfections. A little bump here, a small sag there; I was performing surgery to correct these subtle imperfections. While my intention is to create a pleasing form, I cannot help but reflect on the societal pressures imposed on women to strive for perfection. In our society, many women believe they will never be good enough, yet these women are.

On a more personal level, these sculptures depict the challenges of dating after nearly 30 years of marriage. One man may have won my heart, but not my body. Another may have won my head, but not my heart. Yet another, my body, but nothing else. An alliance of all three has proved elusive, and I am certainly not the first or last woman to have been confronted with this.

The steadfast yet delicate stance, the hard material versus the soft curves of the forms, and the occasional downward angle of the head may suggest resignation or despair, but I see them as a reflection on the ability to feel from both the head and the heart, without looking at and succumbing to the physical desires of the body of a partner. Others look straight ahead, almost challenging. It is the very delicate and precarious balance between the head, the heart and the body that is of the greatest interest to me. That they are indeed whole, held together with the smallest of connecting points, always on edge, yet stable and rigid, designates their three points or graces.