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Shot in Scotland during an artistic residency at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts, the works of my Soulskin series (2018) probe the Wild Woman archetype* at the heart of the Celtic folktale The Seal Woman. A project that continues to examine the initiatory significance of folk and fairy tales in the quest for identity, but on more intimate and mature grounds.


Can women exist outside the bonds of marriage? Outside their relationship to husband and children? These questions lie at the heart of The Seal Woman story. Although there exist several versions of this tale, the narrative always revolves around the fervent quest of a selkie (a mythological creature said to live as a seal in the sea and take human form on land by shedding its skin) to retrieve her pelt after having it stolen by a man.

Rather than to illustrate various scenes in the story, my intent is to reveal the symbolic message at work, namely the female psyche’s cycle of loss and recovery, with its share of instinctuality, freedom, and vibrancy. Following a Jungian approach, my images explore the metaphorical link between the sealskin and a woman’s powerful inner self, often buried under years and layers of socialization. Just as, in dream interpretation, each character represents a facet of the dreamer,I employ self-portraiture to embody the tale’s different protagonists. Are there not within each woman areas of inhibiting darkness and areas of light that seek to burst forth?

Although in no way autobiographical, the process of using myself as model allowed me to personify some of the forces at play in a woman's search for identity — an act of disguise which, paradoxically enough, led me to become the anonymous inhabitant of my own fantasies in tableaux where the heightened romanticism of nature takes on a tinge of the surreal. Moreover, the self-portrait component adds an enigmatic, perhaps even universal dimension to the compositions.

*The Wild Woman Archetype refers to concept developed by storyteller and psychanalyst Clarissa Pinkola Estés in her book Women Who Run With the Wolves (1992).

This series was captured during a residency at Glasgow's Centre for Contemporary Arts, in Scotland, thanks to the CALQ's Exchange of artists and studio-apartments program.


I also owe a debt of gratitude to the following institutions that generously facilitated my photo shoots on their grounds:

Dunrobin Castle, Golspie, Écosse

Oban Seal Sanctuary, Écosse

Dunvegan Castle, 
île de Skye, Écosse

Aquarium du Québec, Québec

© 2011-2019 Catherine Rondeau. Tous droits réservés.
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