Reviews of Martha Oliver-Smith
Review in Vermont Woman Newspaper (Sept./Oct. 2015 edition) by Kate Mueller - download pdf here.
Review in Jung Journal: Culture & Psyche Publication - download pdf here.
— Patrica Reis, "Translate This Madness", published July 31, 2015
Review in Providence Journal by Betty Cotter: http://www.providencejournal.com/article/20150315/ENTERTAINMENTLIFE/150319647
“According to Archetypal Psychologist James Hillman, it is the work of the soul to create meaningful experience out of the facts of one’s life. In Martha’s Mandala, Oliver-Smith entwines strands of her own personal journey of self-discovery with an imaginative accounting of her grandmother’s life-work: to give beauty and coherence to the dark and mysterious voices that shattered Martha Bacon’s psyche as a young mother; to find a quiet center and create a peaceful “home” amidst the tumult of an extraverted lifestyle of uncertain privilege and patriarchy; and to proceed throughout all of her life’s circumstances with a private diligence and faithfulness to her own Truth. ”
— Jennifer A. Fendya, PhD, Psychologist, Curator of Art, CG Jung Center - Buffalo
“Parsing the complexity of a family influenced by mental illness, Martha Oliver-Smith subtly weaves her grandmother’s story into her own as both women work to solve the perplexing problem of the split self. Her grandmother’s symbolic watercolors “made out of her darkness” evolve beautifully in the telling as talismans of solace and balance. ”
— Kathryn Abajian, essayist and memoirist, author First Sight of the Desert: Discovery of the Art of Ella Peacock.
“The limitations upon the creativity of women – both imposed and self-imposed – chronicled in Martha’s Mandala, is genuinely heartbreaking. Here we glimpse some of the 20th century’s most important figures – notably Carl Jung – who the reader must re-evaluate in light of this story of family privilege, patriarchy, and downfall. Martha’s Mandalas – beautifully written as text and elegantly produced as object – offers us a glimpse of the author’s grandmother – a member of the American aristocracy, a witness to history – and what might have been, had her considerable artistic and intellectual talents been recognized by the influential men around her, which they were not. This concise and insightful memoir makes us take stock of the “progress” women – especially creative women – have, or have perhaps not, gained. Read this and get (retro-)actively outraged. Read this, and appreciate the work of THIS author who is now the important voice of the women in her family, now telling her grandmother’s story. ”
— Sue William Silverman, author, The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew
“Martha Oliver-Smith has created out of her grandmother’s long buried artifacts, out of her grandfather’s Pulitzer Prize winning remnants, a work of art. It is mesmerizing. She does not hold back. Her portraits of herself, her family, her grandparents Martha and Leonard Bacon, C.G. Jung, Toni Wolff, Georgia O’Keefe, Randall Jarrell, and others, emerge from those halcyon days of the twenties through the fifties as expressionistic gems with amazing power. They are stark in their ambiguity and sometimes bleak in their accuracy allowing us to glimpse a bygone era as through a glass darkly. But these portraits teach us about ourselves, the foibles of our character, what it takes to be human for such a brief time. Some of us shine brightly like a star, in others the glow is mostly hidden. But in all of us there is a flame glimmering, beckoning to be seen. ”
— Kirk Gooding, MD, MC, poet and artist
“In this slim, elegant volume, Martha Oliver-Smith recreates the artistic and psychic life of an utterly unique woman, her grandmother, Martha Bacon. Blending memoir, illustrations, research, and re-imagined events, Oliver-Smith evokes a life at once tragic and beautiful, lively and profoundly lonely. Martha’s Mandala explores the past of a literary family in a book that is elegiac, and unforgettable. ”
— Laura Kalpakian, novelist and memoirist: author of The Memoir Club
“Martha Oliver-Smith has given us a multifaceted gift. Through her rich and vibrant recounting of the life events and psychological dimensions of her grandparents, new reflections on our own inner tensions and energies emerge. Her grandfather an extravert, intellectual, and Pulitzer Prize winner traveled to Zürich to be analyzed by Jung and his students. Her introverted grandmother reared children, and complied with the social expectations of a woman of a noted family in the first half of the 20th century; parallel to the outer ordered life, she experienced an inner solitary experience of individuation that was frightening, painful, and expressed in part through writing, drawing and painting (Martha’s mandalas). When her work began in response to a “crack-up” she did not know of Jung’s theories nor of his interest in mandalas). Jung did eventually see her paintings on a visit to the States when he spent a weekend in the family home.
Ms. Oliver-Smith’s book, with new information, gives us a glimpse into the circle of persons who traveled to Zürich to work with Jung in the pre-World War II years and of events involving Carl and Emma Jung in their time in the States. In Martha, who identified herself as a feminist, we feel the conflicts and struggles of women in the last century where the inner life and social changes were too often discordant.
This history and reflection stands on its own as a rich psychological biography; of greater value is that it may open doors for each of us to personal and archetypal elements in ourselves that determine our lives, our relationships, and our connection to that which is present “called or not called”. ”
— Frances M. Parks, Ph.D., ABPP, Graduate, C.G. Jung, Zürich
“Martha’s Mandala is the deeply moving discovered and uncovered biography of the inner life and struggles of the author’s grandmother. Martha Bacon, a highly intelligent and talented woman torn between a life of duty and forbearance and the urgings of her artistic daemon seeking expression through the living of a larger life, is a woman whose life – and lives – are locked inside herself, a psychic split that manifests in voices which emerge during the stress of young motherhood. During her “illness”, she has a vision of a white flower, a mandala that marks the beginning of her healing and points her to a path towards wholeness that confronts her for the rest of her life. For an analyst and student of Jung, the book offers a rich account of Jungian theory and understanding applied to the life of a family over several generations. The book adds to Jung history and imagination including its parallels in places to The Red Book. It includes correspondence between Jung, Toni Wolff and the Bacons and recounts the couple’s travels to Zurich where Leonard (Patty’s husband) is analyzed, as well as a weekend visit by Jung and his wife to the Bacons’ home in Rhode Island. This aspect is interesting and enjoyable but also sad, for I found myself wishing that Patty were the one to be analyzed. Martha’s Mandala is also an autobiography of the author and her own encounter with her relationship to her family and herself. Through her work, she comes to terms with, embraces and frees herself from her psychic inheritance in a way that is reflective, sensitive and loving. Martha’s Mandala continues its healing and individuating effect over successive generations.”
— Michael Marsman, L.C.S.W.-R, Jungian Analyst
posted by Natalie Hormilla, Barton Chronicle, March 25, 2015 (http://bartonchronicle.com/a-look-at-the-internal-struggles-of-an-early-feminist/#more-25816)
Article in the Hardwick Gazette: