The Turning—A Journey With the Hag

The Turning 4My journey with the Hag begins with this piece. A friend mentioned that MECCA (Materials Exchange Center for Community Arts) put out a call to artists for their “Object Afterlife Art Challenge”in September and I entered, not really knowing what to expect. Each artist was presented with a mystery material that would then be used to build an art project. I received a piece of unconstructed basketry. It put me in the mind of a nest, so I figured I would do a bird of some sort, most likely a phoenix.

But the Hag was calling. My long time interest in Baba Yaga was surfacing and I knew she needed to be part of this art project. I ended up creating a cross between a phoenix and the iconic chicken hut that Baba Yaga lives in, complete with a small model of her in the doorway and a stove inside.

The Turning 3

“The Turning” is inspired by both the Phoenix of Greek mythology and the character of Baba Yaga in Russian folktales. Baba Yaga lives in a hut that stands on chicken legs and is often viewed as an agent of destruction/rebirth. The Phoenix is a classic symbol of new beginnings, rising up from the ashes of its nest. I combined these two elements in my piece to create a new twist on these tales, and in this way I feel I captured the spirit of the Object Afterlife Challenge—new forms rising out of old ones. The title “The Turning” refers to Baba Yaga’s Hut, which is often described as spinning on its chicken legs, but it also refers to giving scrap materials new life, “turning ” them into something else.

I used recycled paper, cardboard, fabric and basketry in this piece, most of which I acquired at MECCA, as well as paperclay and paint. It is nestled in a vintage tray I picked up from a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store.

The creation of “The Turning” was an exhilarating and exhausting process. And somewhere between its creation and the opening of the art show, I was seized with the urge to make this a year-long project focused on Baba Yaga, creating a different interpretation of her each month. She would take no less than that, the commitment of a whole year of my time.

I knew better than to ignore a call this powerful. So here I begin the journey. Come along with me and see what I come up with for Baba Yaga every month for the next year. I will also add other art projects along the way.

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