Panem et Circenses

A newly completed work on paper, pencil and gouache expressing my confusion, dismay and anxiety concerning multiple new realities, be it social upheaval   identity obsessions , pronoun hysteria , language police, climate vulnerability  , and now martial aggression in Eastern Europe.

Bread and circuses, be it foolish political distractions, petty grievances and mindless entertainment seems to be what society craves most  .

I’m just trying to navigate the onslaught .

Panem et Circenses
2022
pencil, gouache on toned paper
19 by 25 inches

Dense image, some details might be in order:

Detail including self portrait in commedia costume.
Detail, me, telling the White Man he is indeed Dead.

More background detail.
The germ of the work, a quick notebook sketch.
Panem et Circenses
2022
pencil, gouache on toned paper
19 by 25 inches

Author: babylonbaroque

I am a painter and printmaker working towards creating a body of work that reflects my own developing aesthetic. New work ,first link. The second link is an on-line portfolio.

2 thoughts on “Panem et Circenses”

  1. Your tower draws me in, Leonard, amid all the ‘bread and circuses’ of the world surrounding it. The figure in the tower, and your self-portrait, recalls for me the Baba Yaga stories of East Slavic folklore. Baba Yaga has appeared in hundreds if not thousands of folktales in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine from the eighteenth century, if not earlier. After our recent discussions over at Facebook on the limitations of the binary logic that so often defines our digital age, I am reminded that Baba Yaga, in comparison, is a many-faceted figure who exhibits striking ambiguity towards all she surveys. She is not just a dangerous witch, but a maternal benefactress, probably related to a pagan goddess. The mysteriousness of Baba Yaga’s origins has captured my imagination since my mother first introduced me to her as a teenager. It was an introduction that began my continuing exploration of the intercultural weaving of the witch and the wise woman that is a fascinating aspect of all folklore across the world. Researchers have seen Baba Yaga as a “Cloud, Moon, Death, Winter, Snake, Bird, Pelican, Earth Goddess, totemic matriarchal ancestress, female initiator, phallic mother, and archetypal image”. One thing is for sure is that there is nothing sentimental or sugar-coated about any of the tales in which she appears. For example, your self-portrait here reminds me of the story of Vasilisa the Beautiful. Vasilisa comes to Baba Yaga with humility and openness, passes her tests, and walks away with the witch’s gift of fire in a skull. The coals brought in the skull-lantern go on to burn the stepmother and sisters to ash who have persecuted Vasilisa. It’s a Cinderella tale, but not one that Disney will be making into a film any time soon.

    As the terrible events of the Ukrainian invasion by Russia unfold, I am keenly aware of not possessing enough knowledge to pass any kind of informed comment on the situation. Searching through my books on Baba Yaga, a character who permeates the folklore of the two countries in question, has been part of my reading this week as the stories a country tells often hold vital clues to who they are. What stood out for me are the words of Jack Zipes, the folklorist, who writes of the Baba Yaga/Baba Yagas that have evolved in Russian folktales, who differ to those you find in Ukrainian stories:

    “She clearly announces how enmeshed she is with Russia whenever she senses Russian blood is near. No one has ever fully explained why it is that she is always so eager to spill and devour Russian blood and not the blood of some other nation. One would think that, as a protector of Russian soil, she might always be helpful when Russians appear at her hut. Yet, she is most severe with Russians and seems strangely to be protecting Russian soil from the Russians. She also demands the most from Russians and shows no mercy if they fail to listen to her. A Baba Yaga is the ultimate tester and judge, the desacralized omnipotent goddess, who defends deep-rooted Russian pagan values and wisdom and demands that young women and men demonstrate that they deserve her help. But what Baba Yaga also defends in the nineteenth-century tales are qualities that the protagonists need to adapt and survive in difficult situations such as perseverance, kindness, obedience, integrity, and courage. If we bear in mind that these tales reflect the actual living conditions of the Russian people in the mid-nineteenth century to a large degree, and that they were listened to and read at face value, they are very profound “documents” about the struggles of ordinary Russians and their faith in extraordinary creatures to help them in times of need. They are also dreams of compensation for their helplessness. Stories of hope.”

    I hope there is a Baba Yaga close by to Putin to remind the Russian self-styled ‘president for life’ of the complete and utter foolishness of his ways. My thanks go to you Leonard for creating art which has really made me think this week.

    1. My friend, somehow I missed this reply, I am sorry I did. Baba Yaga has been a companion since boyhood since encountering a version in a fairy tale book in our nursery , enchanted by the images I was drawn in…now I draw her in it seems. Appreciate as usual your keen insight . xLg

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