How it all started: Golden Goddess – Tara – Goddess of Compassion

by Claire Elizabeth Barratt (aka Cilla Vee), Asheville, North Carolina USA   

The Golden Goddess began in October 2007 in Asheville, NC, at the River Sculpture Festival. I was one of several choreographers commissioned to create dance in response to a sculpture piece of our choice on exhibit at French Broad River Park that autumn. 
My choice was a hanging disc of tarnished gold with an intricate cutout design like a metal doily. The work was by Ralph Berger.

 Captured in Flight sculpture by Ralph Berger 
Photo: Claire E Barratt

On studying the piece, my hands began to respond in gestures similar to Indian classical dance mudras – so I followed up on this impulse with some research of female Indian deities and discovered a “golden goddess” whose name is Tara – the Goddess of Compassion. This felt extremely fitting to me – a character who I could happily embody.

Tara - Goddess of Compassion River Sculpture Festival, Asheville, NC 
Photo: Michael Tracey

Coincidentally, I happened to have a large supply of gold powder that I had come across at the infamous Materials for the Arts – NPO give-away paradise in Queens, NY. I think it’s supposed to really be for furniture, but it works incredibly well as body paint! 

Hence the birth of the Golden Goddess.

Tara - Goddess of Compassion 
River Sculpture Festival, Asheville, NC 
Photo: Michael Tracey

Since then, she has had multiple metamorphoses and developments.

The Golden Goddess at Elixer #444, 
Asheville Area Arts Council, NC
Photo: Reiner Doost

Tara - Goddess of Compassion at Modern Dance, Primitive Light, 
 Circle Modern Dance, Knoxville, TN
Photo: Brynn Yeager

Golden Godess at Chashama Gala, 
One World Trade Center, New York, NY 
Photo: event photographer

The Golden Goddess at Elixer #444,
 Asheville Area Arts Council, NC
Photo: Reiner Doost

But more than a performance character, she has caused me to consider the meaning of compassion. What does it truly mean to have compassion? What distinguishes it from sympathy or empathy? How can one live compassionately? How to embody compassion as an artist?

This is an ongoing inquiry and the very thing that sparked this project:
Re-Cultivating Compassion.

For more from CillaVee please visit 


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