Scene From Ovid: A Son of Niobe
ink & watercolor
image 7 x 5
frame 18 x 16
Even if the story is not familiar the name of Tantalus is since it gave us the modern word - tantalize. For the crime of killing his son as well as revealing some of the secrets of the gods, this former king of Lydia was sent to Tartarus. His punishment was to forever stand in a pool of water up to his neck only to have the water recede every time he tried to take a drink. In some versions fruit hangs above his head and every time he tried to pluck something to eat the wind would blow the fruit away, thus ‘tantalizing’ him for eternity.
This picture is all about the new interpretation. I took some liberties with the story to give a new vision of the myth, one in which the ribbon motif appears again and signifies the way in which most of us mortals are tied or bound to the very things that torture us. We know things are bad for us yet we continue to act the same way. True, Tantalus was consigned to hell by the gods, nevertheless the metaphor still applies: as humans we do have free will and must suffer the consequences. Though the ribbon appears to prevent Tantalus from drinking if one studies it one can see that it is relatively lose, not at all a prohibitive binding, in a sense alluding to the complicity our minds have in restricting us, somewhat like an allegory of conscience or guilt. But, the sagging fetters and the unusual palette give the piece an almost mystic feel rather than the tension one would expect from a soul struggling with an eternity of thirst. It is not too far of a stretch to sense a far eastern, Asian tone in the work.
Hand painted and finished Italian frame
with shot silk and linen wrapped mats
Image size 23.5 x 19.5 with arched top
Frame size 34 x 27.5
Abduction of Ganymede
This myth is one of a number that feature a homosexual attraction. Ganymede was a beautiful shepherd and the son of Tros, a legendary king of Troy. Jupiter fell in love with the youth and having transformed himself into an eagle, abducted Ganymede. Once on Olympus, Jupiter made him the cupbearer of the gods.
Often times in the classical myths, the mortals are completely vulnerable to the whims of the gods. Ganymede the shepherd, as far as we know, had no desire to be taken off the earth, ravished and made cupbearer to the gods. But, such was his fate. An unlucky situation for Ganymede but perhaps but lucky for us, as this myth is such a rich source for imagery. I have chosen in this interpretation to emphasize the pathos of the scene. In a sense it becomes a type of secular Pieta or some kind of somber apotheosis, and accordingly it is treated very symbolically. For instance the crook that Ganymede holds is for show, very much like the identifying attribute of a saint and the whole composition is emblematic: it is impossible for flight to occur in the positions of our protagonists. The importance is not in the actuality but rather in the idea of the abduction. Man is subject to the gods and all that implies. The falconer’s fetters on Ganymede’s ankles are further symbols of this subjugation. For effect this watercolor is done in a manner I rarely employ in which multiple layers of color are placed on the paper to give a denser appearance, but this effect is quite in accordance with the theme.
Nouveau feather motif frame, hand wrapped silk and linen mats with fillet
Image size 24 in diameter
Frame size 39 x 39
Immolation of Semele
Juno discovered that the mortal, Semele, was with child by Jupiter and she began scheming to destroy her. Juno wickedly advised Semele to persuade Jupiter to make love to her for once in full, divine glory. Jupiter reluctantly agreed and when he appeared in his true state, Semele, of course, was reduced to ash by the power of Jupiter’s light. Mercury who sewed the child in Jupiter’s thigh until it was able to survive on its own saved the unborn child just before the immolation. That child would become Bacchus, god of wine.
Once again a mortal is unwillingly swept into the lives of the gods and pays the price. However, in this piece I decided not to concentrate on the ramifications of the plot but rather on the explosion of light and color as Jupiter reveals his true image to Semele. Like the oil painting Cephalus Awakening to the Dawn and the Adoration of Aurora, this painting is one of the most conspicuously aesthetic that I have done. There is a hint of an interior and Semele reclines on some cloth and pillows but the entire background dissolves in a flash of warm light. The tiny blue cloth is a purely compositional device that contrasts nicely with the oranges, golds and peach colors everywhere else in the scene. More importantly that tiny bit of contrasting blue brings the viewer’s eye back to the figure of Semele before she too disintegrates in the fiery light.
Hand finished Italian rustic frame with silk and
suede hand wrapped mats and gold distressed fillet
Image size 16.5 x 17.25
Frame size 30.5 x 31.25