Final Works

Four views of Untitled 2013--one of the two unfinished sculptures Cydra was working on in the last months of her life.

Pope Joan with Miter Hats, Ganesh and Baubo (2005)

[please click on images to enlarge]

At the End, a Return: An Apotheosis Affirmed
(comparison of 2005’s “Pope Joan…” with 2013’s “Untitled,”  
which Cydra was working on during the last months of her life)

Two sculptures eight years apart in their making reveal the essence of Cydra’s life and creative journey, and might be read as an exaltation of the symbols that epitomized her most in an affirmed apotheosis.

In these two images one is immediately drawn to their similarity, made all the more meaningful with the
knowledge that the latter piece remained unfinished when Cydra passed away.  The potency of her final work is in the revelation that the symbolism of the figures, still raw and enigmatic, seems to be a distillation of her earlier sculptural explorations.  Look at both sculptures and you will see Pope Joan, Ganesh and Baubo-- but look deeper at the unfinished work and discover that it reveals the symbolic summation of a
woman facing the end of her artistic journey.

Why was it that these particular symbols found their way out of Cydra’s psyche and into the clay at two different moments of her life? When she wrote about Pope Joan with Miter Hats, Ganesh and Baubo (2005), Cydra described the symbols that had flowed unbidden into the clay as she sculpted: “It was very exciting to feel almost possessed by these unanticipated spirits. I was exploring an exotic country without a map and discovering new places.”  Perhaps these same spirits revisited her at the end of her life to affirm her life and work.

In this final work, Pope Joan, a longtime kindred spirit of Cydra’s returns with Baubo to unite and birth a triune of Ganesh, a bear and a human face, perhaps Pope Joan again.   While Joan, Baubo and Ganesh were old friends of Cydra, the bear, symbolizing the strong protectively maternal instinct that a mother has for a child, appeared in some of her final works, most powerfully in My Nurse and I and Frida Kahlo (2013).

In this last work, Baubo the bawdy, humorous trickster appears to give birth to the three heads.  Baubo reminds us that no matter what loss or despair we might encounter, laughter and humor promise hope and can help us heal.  Was Cydra expressing that birth and death had become conflated in the symbols that had brought her to a greater awareness of who she was and what had come to matter most to her?  Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, patron of arts and sciences, deva of wisdom; the bear, symbol of mother’s fierce protection; and Pope Joan, who symbolized a hoped for utopia-- all united to represent creative expression, courage, family, and the ideal state in which these could be found.

Joan McGarry
Director of Education & Visitor Engagement
Westmoreland Museum of American Art


The piece below is the 2nd sculpture Cydra was working on in the last months of her life. I have chosen to call it Pope Joan Unfinished (2013), as it appears that Cydra was returning to depict this important figure in her work. Including the above referenced Pope Joan with Miter Hats, Ganesh and Baubo (2005) and Untitled 2013, this was the 6th sculpture in which Cydra portrayed Pope Joan. The others were: Four Pope Joans (2004) Pope Joan Revisioned (2004), and Pope Joan of the Wind (2005).

Carl Bonner

Pope Joan Uninished (2013)

[please click on images to enlarge]

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