Warning: This post contains nudity and may not be appropriate for work environments.
In every woman there's a goddess. Artist Josh Sessoms knows this to be true. For the past two years, the Philadelphia-based artist has been creating colored pencil depictions of black women as Egyptian goddesses. The series is called "Ritual Spirit."
Acknowledging the lack of representation of black women in both art and portraiture, inside and outside the Western European tradition, Sessoms does his part to fill in the gaps with stunning portraits of modern day babes evoking the presence and powers of iconic ancient queens. "The true face of antiquity has been obscured through selectively editing the records of the past," Sessoms explained to The Huffington Post in an email. "I aspire to reintroduce an African diasporic image of elegance, resilience, strength and intellectual ingenuity into the contemporary lexicon."
In the title image above, "Ritual Spirit," Sessoms' subject sits nude, save for a gold necklace, atop a statue of Bes, an Ancient Egyptian deity worshipped as a protector of households and childbirth. The Bes figure also hovers above her. Sobek, a complex and fluid deity often depicted as a Nile crocodile, rests at her feet, alluding to the strength of the sitter's feminine waters.
In "Nebethet," above, Sessoms depicts his sitter as the titular goddess of earthly consciousness, nature and the underworld. As the artist says in a statement: "She condenses matter which unites the soul/spirit with the physical realm of time and space."
Sessoms' drawings collapse past and present imagery through the vessel of the naked human form, a timeless symbol for openness and honesty, according to the artist. Such figures are interwoven with elements of ancient medicine, astronomy, astrology and science, to illuminate the non-Western origins of today's widespread practices.
The enchanting images capture the duality of now and then, human and divine, strength and softness. They also, according to Sessoms, reference the male and female energies inside us all. "Men and women are different aspects of the same cosmic energy. So I address this topic as a man to complement my eternal companion through time: the woman. Together we magnetize and create balance on the macro-cosmic scale."