Amelia: Images of Mystery—the Transformation of Shadow in Women

Joan Golden-Alexis

Then I learned that he who fights against the night must move its deepest darkness so that it gives out its light—Walter Benjamin


During my years as a clinician, I have always held shadow—that point of darkness—as the place to begin my inquiry, and the place to begin drawing my patients and myself into a wider consciousness. It is shadow, where I look to have my questions, not answered, but constantly refined. In these queries I have noticed a difference in the way shadow, one’s dark shadow as well as one’s bright shadow—one’s unlived life potentialis expressed in women and in men. There are differences in the kinds of images presented, the arc of the transformation in these images over time, and particularly the narrative, the discourse that each gender conveys. The narratives of women have particularly captured my interest, and are the focus of this exploration.

Amelia’s Journey Through Shadow

In this exploration, I will be looking into the work of the Cuban artist, Amelia Paláez (1896-1968). Amelia has produced a series of paintings that give us an intimate view into her journey through shadow towards an authentic expression of Self. Her imagery is interesting in that it displays movement from a powerful psychic ground that is internal, closed off and incubating to one that unfolds with uncommon strength and velocity. Following her imagery, I will attempt to bring forth the compelling value and meaning of her work in making shadow in women more accessible to our understanding.

Her paintings will be presented in chronological order, enabling them to describe the trajectory of her imagery. The discussion is divided into four parts: The Introduction of the Vessel; the Re-introduction of the Human Element; and the Impact of Volumetric Space on the artist’s work. I will conclude with a short discussion of how these images may impact, and inform the theory of women’s journey of integration.

Read Amelia: Images of Mystery—the Transformation of Shadow in Women in its entirety here.