Words About Pictures

Apparently, it’s a cardinal sin to describe one’s own art through words, though that’s what we’re asked to do by people who see our work in shows or galleries. Often, what you really want to say in response to well-meaning interlocutors is “How the hell am I supposed to know?” Because visual art is, well, visual. Its power lies in its ability to communicate on a direct, emotional level, unencumbered by words. And there are a lot of emotions words can not convey.

Sometimes, however, I am called to start writing about a piece after I’ve made it. It can be an interesting exercise, though I wouldn’t recommend it all the time. Better to let most images stay in the realm of the unsayable, methinks.

Bacchant Rod Puppet

Euripides’ play The Bacchae retells the ancient Greek myth of what can happen when we make war on the gods.  Pentheus, young king of Thebes, seeks to destroy the cult of the Bacchae, women who dance and cavort in the forest above the city in honor of the god Dionysus.  Pentheus’ name means “grief.”  It is a fitting name for his fate.  He is ultimately tricked by the god into spying on the women, where he is torn to pieces by his own mother, blinded by her ecstasy into thinking he is a lion. See More

Meat/Spirit

Meat/Spirit reflects my attempt to understand our dual nature: are we human beings struggling to become spiritual beings—or spiritual beings trapped in human flesh?

We have the capacity for so much goodness, but so often we revert to the worst of evils. The title of the piece references the Kate and Anna McGarrigle song Why Must We Die: “We are meat, we are spirit/We have blood and we have grace/We have a will and we have muscle/A soul and a face/Why must we die?” See more

Icarus Fallen

Does anyone not know the story of Icarus? To escape from the labyrinth he flies up on a pair of waxen wings but, in spite of the warnings he receives, comes too close to the sun. The wax melts, throwing him into the sea, where he drowns. Now let us imagine that young Icarus manages to actually live through this ordeal: he falls back into the labyrinth, where he finds himself horribly bruised but still alive. And let us try to imagine what goes on in his head after this adventure. He has to go back to a normal life after having thought himself capable of attaining the sun, the supreme good. How will he get over his disappointment?

–Icarus Fallen: The Search for Meaning in an Uncertain World, Chantal Delsol

I have tried to capture Icarus at just this moment Chantel Delsol describes. The simple fabric sheathing that once held his waxen wings together is all that is left of his adventure. It now blinds him, and he gropes toward what he does not yet understand. See more