The Goddess Sphynx
oil on canvas
This painting is from my Goddess Project, where I re-imagine the familiar and iconic characters from the mythology and stories of all religions through a contemporary feminist lens.
In Ancient Egyptian Lore, the Sphynx was a male character; an honorable and wise guardian of the tombs, part lion, part man. The earliest and most iconic image is the Great Sphynx of Giza, guarding the pyramids, created around 2500 BC.
Over the next thousand years, with conquests and cultural appropriation, the Greeks ended up with their own version of the Sphynx, an evil and tricky one with wings and a tail…who was also now a female character.
She was the one who asked the famous riddle you had to answer in order to pass into Thebes. What walks on four legs in the morning, 2 legs at noon and 3 legs at sundown?
If you didn’t guess the right answer, she would throw you off the cliffs to your death.
So, as a male icon, she was a good, wise and powerful guardian of the tombs, but as a female icon she became tricky and conniving…Got it!
This is the myth that I want to bust with The Goddess Sphynx from my Goddess Project.
My Sphynx is still a woman…a Goddess no less, but I wanted to return her goodness and her wisdom, and keep her powerful.
I chose the perfect model…Shannon, a woman who had posed for my Chicks with Balls project a number of years ago.
Shannon, who now proudly and happily lives her life as a woman, was born into the body of a man. It took almost 40 years of an incredibly difficult life journey for this to be corrected, and I write about her story in my Second Chicks with Balls book when she volunteered to pose for my Chicks with Balls project in 2014.
Shannon was indulgent and beautiful when she posed for me as the all-knowing, all wise, all powerful…now female…Goddess Sphynx.
The quill pen, an ancient book of the ages, and the iconic stone image of the Egyptian Sphynx guarding the pyramids at Giza all drive the point home that she is wise and good and she is a woman.
The Goddess Sphynx is showing for just one more week at the May Show at Lakeland College, only through July 9th. Be sure to stop by and see the fabulous company she keeps in this show, juried by Jae and Wadsworth Jarrell, founders of the AfriCOBRA art movement in the 1960s.
Watch when I took Living Figuratively to the May Show at Lakeland…below.
One more thing…if you've been thinking about the riddle, here's the answer…its a baby who grows into an adult. Crawling on four legs in the morning, walking on two legs at noon and 3 legs, with a cane as the sun sets on their life!