Herakles , Redemption & Borage

I visited the Getty Villa this morning with my sister Pamela who is visiting from back east . We arrived early enough that there weren’t many slack- jawed tourists incessantly snapping selfies . Instead we had the old gods and newly born spring blossoms to ourselves.

It was heavenly .

There is currently an exquisite exhibition devoted to the classical world’s understanding of the Underworld. Monumental funerary kraters dominate the plum tinted galleries , elaborate narrative paintings scrawled upon the earthen surfaces. There is of course Queen Persephone and her dark consort Hades , Sisyphus can be found toiling eternally under that terrible darn rock and Hermes flitters about oblivious to the sorrows of the shades .

But I was particularly drawn to mighty Herakles , seen time and again battling the fearsome Cerberus- one of his tasks meant to redeem his terrible crimes, the murder of his wife Megaro and their sons the Herakleidai. From one funerary vessel to another his muscular frame could be seen wrestling that multi headed canine fiend .

I’ve drawn inspiration from Herakles all of my life . His madness , the fit of rage that drove him to his terrible sins , although the result of a divine curse from almighty Hera, caused him great anguish. His suffering has always resonated personally as I’ve had a lifelong struggle with at times severe depression and chronic anxiety . He has been in some ways a patron saint .

So much so that I painted a near life sized icon of the weary redeemed hero in my Herakles Tapestry seen here with Parsifal in the foreground.

 

On one funerary vessel there was a touching image of the ill fated Megara and the sons she bore our hero , they are found forever languishing in dank Hades.

Between visiting darkened galleries devoted to Persephone and her vassals my sister and I popped in and out to delight in the gardens the Villa is so famous for . Glorious spring ephemerals were popping out of the ground as if the dark queen herself was emerging.

Borage being my favorite, with an added joy in the hosts of honey bees darting about .

Perhaps less photogenic but nonetheless important to the Herakles narrative was the hellebores, pale green and tender and so easy to overlook , it however cured our long suffering Herakles from his madness .

I was pleased to see how well it grew and am now encouraged to try it in my own cottage garden . I’m going to close with a few photographic mementos from this fine day with the Shades and the Quick.

The sovereigns of the Underworld

And pretty youths basking in the gifts of Helios

 

And one less youthful but certainly appreciative of being above Hades realm… for now .

My sister Pamela, this being her first visit to the Getty Villa was dazzled and thrilled as is to be expected.

I’m planning another visit very soon as this featured exhibition Underworld :Imagining the Afterlife closes March 18th.

I recommend catching it before it slips away as easily as Eurydice.

The Fairy Godfather

Cecil Beaton , right, Stephen Tenant, left

In imagining my upcoming solo show Fairyland, the Bright Young Things of the twenties frequently occupy my mind and inspire my hand. Their love of spectacle, the thrill of the theatrical and the giddy truth found in what is so often dismissed as a camp sensibility, delights , encourages and informs my own work . The ethereal beauty Stephen Tenant was an enchanting (if silly) flower to this bouquet , but it was the magician Cecil Beaton who arranged it all.

Beaton had an astonishing career, the breadth of his accomplishments too immense for such a  casual post, but a new film, Love, Cecil  is to be released exploring this master’s work and life. I’m looking forward to its release.

 

My inspiration files frequently burst with Beaton’s images, here are a few. I have neglected to make attributions beyond Beaton, I apologize for that. If recognition is due, please message me and corrections will be made.

Stephen Tenant, the brightest of the Bright Young Things (at least superficially).
Cecil Beaton
1927
The Impersonation Party
1927
Beaton , upper right
Tenant, lower left
A masquerade of monarchs.

From impersonating celebrities to capturing their image, this is a beauty.

Elizabeth Taylor
Cecil Beaton
1953

Edith Sitwell was a recurring muse, and a personally a great favorite. I have countless images of this celebrated woman. I love them all.

Edith Sitwell
Cecil Beaton

Not much is needed to be said…

Gary Cooper
Cecil Beaton

From celebrity culture to the war effort, all the same Beaton glamor.

WWII sailor as seamstress
Cecil Beaton
Imperial War Museum
(quite fetching)

Closing with one of my favorite images of Dame Edith Sitwell, reminds me of Cerberus of course. This image taken the year I was born, 1962. I admire Sitwell’s approach to vanity, aging , beauty; she seemed to understand fully her curious allure.

Edith Sitwell
Cecil Beaton
1962

Have an inspired week.

 

 

 

 

Magnificent Inspiration

Last evening the Beloved and I went to LACMA to at last catch ” Ancient Bodies: Archeological Perspectives on Mesoamerican Figurines” , link: http://www.lacma.org/art/exhibition/ancient-bodies. A beguiling collection of figurines found near to dust at a ritual burial site in Guatemala, now restored . It is an extraordinary miracle that they have survived and that the shards of ephemeral clay , shimmering still with that iconic Maya blue , were able to be restored to their imaginative theatrical splendor . The attention to detail , the costumes , the inherent ritual of the funerary drama , all deeply moving and inspiring.

Here are some snapshots of these diminutive masterpieces. The show closes tomorrow February 4th, you literally have only hours to see this before they are returned to the vault, for how long , I haven’t a clue.

For a sense of scale, my husband gazes in wonder.

The following were not found in the aforementioned burial site but are part of LACMA’ current holdings of Maya ( Mesoamerican in general ) art . A testament to the richness of their treasure rooms . It’s a wondrous collection in a dazzling suite of gorgeous galleries , 4th floor of Art of the Americas Building.