Altars of the Invisible

Altars of the Invisible is a new millennium altarpiece for today’s women, who are still being told they can have it all if only they will try hard enough.

It is a sculptural work in which I tore apart, re-structured and compartmentalized an actual wedding dress. The front of the garment supports doors capable of opening and closing. Open, they reveal the interior of a dress furnished with numerous objects.

The piece was inspired by the Virgem do Paraiso, a 13th-century Portuguese altarpiece from Evoria; Sandy Orgel’s Linen Closet installation shown at the landmark Woman House in 1972; and certain iconographic aspects of Maria, the robot provocateur turned goddess in Fritz Lang’s silent Metropolis, in 1927.

In Altars, the female body into a series of compartments bearing all the items deemed necessary for a woman to thrive in today’s world. The objects, every woman’s interior trousseau —symbols of love, sex, careers, marriages, households, families and children — reflect the multiple roles thrust upon women by culture, the media and women themselves.

The title of the interior book is Adjusting for the Moon, with a poem by Stan Pinkwas. The poem, below, addresses the tensions in personal relationships through the metaphor of a mariner navigating only by the light of the moon and his knowledge of the sea.

Adjusting for the Moon

She sleeps or she pretends to, her inert form mimicking mine, facing mine across the great divide

of bed, presiding sphinxlike in the hushed dark, motionless as the moon. She sleeps and she                                   pretends to,

particle and wave inhabiting the selfsame space, the dream-deep trance her restless body like a body

of light casts aside, remembering all its absences and ills in a state of wakeful rest. When I hear her dreams,

which I can when they’re angry, and their known and keening demons turn to whispering among themselves,

she also turns, animate and unaware in our conspiracy of place, and faces away. Sometimes she holds me

and she doesn’t, her mind releasing what the heart attracts, travelling like the moon its own apparent width

from desire to indifference in an hour’s constant span, as if love’s winnowing, the pulling apart, were a cyclical event

begun only to be restored, endured only to be undone. Knowing and not, awake and not quite, adrift in the grip

of her iron arms, spent from the heat of a furious tryst, she is my source, my watch, my guide, time’s compass

through the ocean of night. Alone and never fully so, solitary together, lying like a mariner long ago

who might have searched for longitude by measuring the moon’s distance from the stars

before sailing recklessly on, rarely if ever getting it right, I close my eyes and watch for signs