“I believe that our culture
can be greatly enriched
by including the
feminine heritage .”

“When I was writing,
it was imperative that
I do everything at my own
pace without dealing
with a deadline or
outside editing.”

Belan is also an
acclaimed and popular
artist, and takes pride in all
of the illustrations that
appear throughout the book.

Divine Women

by Carol DeFrank

INEQUALITY OF GENDERS is a current popular topic of conversation, commentary and even news magazines. While much has been recorded on the issue, it takes on a new life where Dr. Kyra Belan is concerned. Author, artist, art historian, mythologist, and educator, Belan took the subject and combined it with her belief that historically, women have been plagued with an inferior position, even in mythology. Her passion was to correct the status quo, so she put aside six years of her life to write a book titled Divine Ladies in America.

The book was written with the hope that knowledge would help validate the strength of women. Kyra truly believes there is a gross imbalance of power in our society and that powerful women equate to successful cultures. “I have always thought that females have been ignored throughout mythological history and men have always been in the forefront,” adding “But, if you do the research, you discover many important women figures that haven’t received the recognition they deserve. I find these ladies interesting and feel that their stories are important to women and girls. It not only gives them insight into their heritage, it will hopefully make them proud.”

In the introduction, she writes, “Two thousand years of patriarchal order supported by a male dominated religion conditioned women to accept secondary roles within the Christian Church.” She continues to state that her mission is “to clarify and expand upon the knowledge and understanding of sacred femininity within the diversity of America in the new millennium.”

Lady Liberty graces the cover of the book, which has a chapter dedicated to her. Belan speaks of ‘the gigantic woman’ with utmost respect; referring to her as “a powerful symbol for American democracy, an archetypal Goddess, a direct prototype of the ancient Roman Goddess of Liberty.”

Another chapter is devoted to the Goddess Athena and her American Parthenon. In an effort to prove the importance of this mythical lady, Belan explains, “Through her we can reconnect to our ancient classical heritage of western civilization. This Goddess is a part of the women’s movement, spirituality movement, New Age movement, and the Pagan American movement. As a shape shifter, she can be whatever we want her to be at different times in our lives.”

Other chapters examine femaile icons of significance such as Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother Earth, and Mary Magdalene.

From the beginning, the concept and contents of this book made it so important that the need for her to own it became imperative. Although Kyra has six other books in print via conventional means, Belan self-published Divine Ladies in America. “That’s not to say that later I won’t go the conventional way, but when I was writing, it was imperative that I do everything at my own pace without dealing with a deadline or outside editing.” She adds, “ I did what I felt was necessary to get an in-depth knowledge of all the ladies I wanted to incorporate in the prose. I needed time to think, to make sure I was able to research in a variety of ways including travel, internet, personal contact, scholarly research and actual experience.”

A lot of travel was involved as it was critical to get her own ‘take’ on the information available. “I visited many places and when it wasn’t possible to go to a particular country I either contacted the powers that be in a similar place in the United States or obtained permission to participate in ceremonies that replicate the ones that take place in the original countries.

For instance, she didn’t fly to India but was able to attend ceremonies at a Hindu Temple in the United States. On the other hand, she did travel to New York for Lady Liberty and to Mexico to research Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Goddess of the Americas, even though there are a number of places that have celebrations in her honor every December 12.

Finally, she felt the manuscript was perfected. The immense efforts were done willingly because her passion to make this vital information accessible was fulfilled.

In her own words, “Divine Ladies describes and analyzes the subtle but powerful presence that these women have in contemporary American pop culture. The legendary and heroic background of these icons takes us all over the world. Their existence is manifested on many levels besides mythical; it is also spiritual and emotional. I want females to understand their mythical presence within the world and how they continue to evolve. I believe that our culture can be greatly enriched by including the feminine heritage into our mainstream society.”

Belan is also an acclaimed and popular artist, and takes pride in all of the illustrations that appear throughout the book. They were computer generated using personal drawings and photographs.

While artists are known to focus on one or two mediums, Belan enjoys them all. “I appreciate that I am different from most artists because I don’t specialize in a particular medium,” she says. “I like drawing, painting, mixed media, digital art, colored pencil, installations and photography. And as you can see in Divine Ladies, I even embrace technology in my art.”

That being said, she is known for her portraiture and a style she refers to as ‘magical realism,’ because it has surreal elements.

Kyra is already well into another book that will focus on installation art and will be published by Mellon Press. She explains that installation art consists of a number of techniques and themes, “Everything is site-specific. An artist is given space parameters, usually interior space, but on occasion is expanded to the outdoors. “Sometimes I have to space crunch because I am allowed to only use the floor and walls. Other times I can use the ceiling and not the floor space because several events may be scheduled simultaneously. I work with the specifications dictated by the institution. It’s a lengthy process.” She is currently custom designing an installation piece for the Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center in Fort Myers.

Belan’s artworks are found in numerous public and private collections, and her work has been featured in countless publications. She has participated in more than 60 solo art exhibitions and 90 group art exhibitions, and she is a frequent presenter at art and art history conferences. She has authored six non-fiction books and one fiction book. Her future includes writing an adult book about animals as well as continue painting, drawing, and installation art projects.

Divine Ladies in America is available at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats, and at selected bookstores. For more information about her books and her artwork, visit www.kyrabelan.com. •

March-April 2016