Updated: Aug 6
Inspiration hits at the oddest moment and place. You never know what path it will lead you down. During the fall of 2019 I found myself working on two contradictory concepts, one which gives life and the other that takes it way. Sounds a bit deep for sure, but the idea for “Glorification of the Warrior” emerged from a small sculpture unearthed during my research of ancient Mediterranean cultures. In contrast “Fertility Goddess” emanated from working on an exhibition last summer with Dott.ssa Daniela Gandolfi head of the Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri, a prominent Italian heritage and cultural institute.
When looking back at our ancient origins, we find evidence that female deities were worshipped far and wide for millennia. During the earliest periods of human development and long before our modern day religions, many faiths worshipped a supreme female creator. Religions in many cultures mainly in the Middle East and Europe eventually evolved into an exclusively male order: Priest, Father, God, King — female Deities becoming heretical creatures obliterated over time. Centuries of continual persecution and suppression at the hands of these new religions saw Goddess worship decline, taking with it the status of women around the world.
The discovery of sculpted figurines, representations of an “ideal woman” from 35,000 to 11,000 BC lend credence to these theories. Scientists are not sure if the extra body weight and exaggerated sexual characteristics might have represented a “sexy” woman or a “motherly type.” What is known is that these “Paleolithic ancestors lived in a harsh ice-age environment where survival was a predominant concern, so features of fatness and fertility would have been highly desirable. The body parts that mattered most – and were more than likely the most attractive to them – had to do with successful reproduction features, isolated and amplified by the artist.” (footnote 1)
Many of these figurines share very similar qualities and date from the same period, small sculptures carved out of rock or bone, or molded from clay usually no taller than 11 cm (5.5 inches). These early Venuses or Earth Mothers, symbols of fertility, a Goddess or nothing more than a talisman were discovered over an expanse of territory from western Europe into Russia suggesting that people were linked across these distances, communicating and developing social relationships.
Early recollections of cave paintings in the Loire Valley and a coincidence of place fueled a connection with these ancient Earth Mothers. The goal? To re-express primitive images of woman disparate with the feminine ideal of today, and to remind us that certain cultures in our time have witnessed constrained or revoked hard, worked-for freedoms. In mirage-like illusion linking the ancient with the modern, veiled in time, her story not always clear is open to speculation and interpretation.
Glorification of the Warrior
Confidence, strength, fluidity, and elegance. These are a few of the traits associated with warriors captured in numerous artistic representations over the centuries. In viewing these objects of art one has to question the reverence attached to the warrior, which also raises the question “why are warriors glorified”? Or better yet, what is it about war that can be glorified? Ask Tolstoy his views and you will find in his epic book War and Peace, “The habits of the military class are the absence of freedom, that is, discipline, idleness, ignorance, cruelty, debauchery, and drunkenness. And in spite of all this it is the highest class, respected by everyone. All the kings, except the Chinese, wear military uniforms, and he who kills most people receives the highest rewards.“
In discovering the image of a small Etruscan warrior statue, I was struck by the fluidity and elegance successfully captured by the artist. Standing mid–throw bereft of javelin and shield, for an icon 2,700 years old or so modernity is lucky to have found him. Buried with other riches as a symbol of wealth or as protection for the afterlife, he went to the grave with his patron most likely a king or a warrior himself. When you look further our soldier is also missing an arm and a foot, heralds (don’t you think?) to the brutality of war.
At the turn of the 20th century“Inculcated with militarism through the school system, the Japanese people believed that dying for the nation on the battlefield was the supreme virtue.”“It was so deeply ingrained in Japanese society, that school textbooks have taught generations of children that war is glorious. Even in peacetime the soldier and the role of the military were glorified.” (Footnote 2)
Shortly before the end of the Iraq war William Deresiewicz stated in the New York Times that “No symbol is more sacred in American life right now than the military uniform. The cross is divisive; the flag has been put to partisan struggle. But the uniform commands nearly automatic and universal reverence. In Congress as on television, generals are treated with awed respect, service members spoken of as if they were saints.” Shouldn’t the cult of the uniform or soldier warship belong to the realm of fantasy? “I hate war,” said Dwight Eisenhower, “as only a soldier who has lived it can, as one who has seen it’s brutality, its stupidity.” Winner takes all!!
Aggressor or perpetrator? Defender or victim. Those are the two sides of war, albeit a bit blank and white. It was a difficult task as I’m a lover not a hater, how to represent something so ugly. It was start stop on several occasions. Then one morning I woke envisioning myself on the battlefield with the mud, the blood, the guts, the struggle to kill or be killed. The visualisation made flow a modern interpretation.
It was difficult to finish this series, two of the pieces are still waiting on final touches. Amid the Covid- pandemic it suddenly became necessary to paint something lighter and more frivolous.
For more information on the series or a copy of the digital catalog, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 Ideas that Shaped our Modern World, The Human Journey
2 The glorification of War in Japanese Education, Saburo Lenaga, curtesy JSTOR.org