MYTHOLOGICAL SCENE

bricksmuseum3

This one is kinda hard to follow, sorry. Sort of a stream-of-consciousness thing, one image leading to another, a touch automatic imagining, but nothing subconscious, I think. Let me try to explain.

In a museum you have a painting called “Mythological Scene,” because that’s what curators and historians call an old painting that has naked people out of doors in it, but they can’t figure out what myth, or even which culture, the narrative is about. In pre-modernist works a narrative was required, so modern museum marketeers know there was one, they just don’t know what.

In the beginning of modernist times, ca. 1800, artists began to say no to narrative. Turner was the first to make impressionistic art. He valued sensation over perception. His works do have narratives, but the art can be appreciated without knowing the stories. Next Manet dumped and dumped on the need for narrative with “Olympia” They told all the Victorian-era Bürger that all those orientalist “Slave Market” and “Harem” scenes were nothing but porn. Ouch!

Then with the 20th century came Picasso who, hid his stories in multiple perspectives and abstractions of an analytic sort. Next Duchamp trashed it all as merely “retinal,” opting—unsuccessfully, as it were—to only do conceptual art.

Finally Dali aping 19th century style and neediness for narrative, but otherwise he was thoroughly modern as he used Freud’s theory of the unconscious for his narratives and Ed Bernays’, the founder of modern PRopaganda and Freud’s nephew, theories for his marketing.

There were lots of other great modernist fine artists, but, now, in post-modern times, everyone in the Fine Art game—Pollack to Warhol to Koons and beyond—is a copyist, appropriator, and/or opportunist. I say it’s a “game,” because first, their posturings are like language games where players and pieces are separated from meaning. And second, as they are more gamblers than artists, and their works are mere chips in a casino game.

Note: Unlike the frauds mentioned in the previous paragraph, illustrators for hire, undiagnosed visionaries and other not-fine artists still create good stuff. Some of them will be recognized as “fine” eventually, post mortem and by chance usually. But, I suspect, most of their good work will be lost or discarded as not worth keeping before that happens.

OK, enough of art history, back to the illustration. What confused my imaginary curators and chroniclers are, first, the mash-up of the Judeo-Christian Adam and Eve myth with the Graeco-Roman Actaeon/Artemis one. And second, the painting blurring each of the myths individually.

Regarding Adam and Eve, the painting conflates Adam, and the prosecuting angel. He is both Adam helplessly watching Eve being tempted and the angel walling off Eden. With the original Actaeon/Artemis story, she sees him hunting/observing her bathing. But here Artemis is unaware of the hunter/voyeur and she seems to be doing more hunting than bathing; she appears to be stalking an unsuspecting and atypically ungazing male.

Conflating the myths again: Eve’s traditional bete noir, the apple, is also Artemis’ would-be conquest’s computer. That computer, with internet access, of course, aptly represents serpentine knowledge that makes us all naked before it. Knowledge and nakedness are linked in both traditions, but in quite different ways. Actaeon is punished for observing a goddesses naked, but being naked and observed is the punishment for Adam and Eve.

Enough of the picture in a picture. Outside the frame, it’s just as fuzzy and just as mythical. Adam/Actaeon has fallen and been observed observing. He has been removed from garden, but not yet eaten by his own hounds. He awaits his fate and watches the real world alone. The serpent/non-gazing male all-knowing character and Eve/Artemis seem to have struck a deal. She now knows good and evil. but not the difference between them, as she’s sold her Self to his gaze.

Advertisements