Monday, March 6, 2017


"Byzantium"  Oil on canvas,  15 3/4 x 39 3/4 in.

My painting takes it’s name from the ancient city of Byzantium, at the confluence of trade between the Aegean and Black Sea, founded in 667 by Byzas of Megara, Greece.  It would in the course of history become Constantinople, (324 AD), the Eastern capitol of the Christian, Roman Empire and eventually the seat of the Muslim, Ottoman Caliphate, (1453 AD). Today it is called Istanbul and a remarkable city that is representative of what is past, passing and to come.

This painting is inspired by Yeats vision of a layered but fixed world that is artificial, unchanging, where ornament or object are perhaps the ideal incarnation of the soul.  These lines from his poem “Sailing to Byzantium”, in particular, are a reference for my painting “Byzantium”.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enameling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Sailing to Byzantium

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Persephone Cycle, Part 1

Above is my Collograph about the myth of Persephone and Demeter, named “The Persephone Cycle.” Image size, 18x18 in.  It’s on display at Hinge Gallery  in March, April  during the Quartermaster Press Print Show:  Life-Cycle  and during the "Vashon Island Art Studio Tour" at Brian Fisher Studio, map #16.

Part 1: The Myth of Persephone and Demeter 

Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, Goddess of fertility, harvests, and perhaps the earliest version of a Great Earth Goddess except for Rhea, her own mother.  Beautiful, virginal, Persephone was Demeter’s daughter by Zeus and the maternal focus of her life.

Hades, Persephone’s uncle, fell in love with his young niece and decided that he would have Persephone for his bride but knew that Demeter would never approve of such an arrangement.  So, Hades colluded with Zeus, her father, his brother, who agreed to a secret “union” and to his plans for Persephone’s abduction.

One day Persephone was collecting flowers, when the earth suddenly opened before her and Hades rose from the crack and carried her down to his realm of the dead, beneath the Earth.

Upon learning of Persephone’s disappearance, Demeter searched the Earth, asking all she met if they had seen her beloved Persephone.  She even turned her daughter’s handmaidens into birds, later called the Sirens, so that they could aid her in her search.
Demeter grieved for her lost daughter. Nothing else mattered but seemingly nothing else could be done. In her despair she became unconcerned with the fruitfulness of the Earth and famine, for the first time, came to mankind. 

Eventually Demeter rested from her search at Eleusis. Disguised as an old woman, she found a position as nurse to Triptolemus, the infant son of King Celeus and fell in love.  This was a new, another, child to embrace and Demeter decided to favor him by feeding him ambrosia and each night in secret, holding the child over a fire to make him immortal.  Triptolemus’s mother stumbled upon this ceremony and misunderstanding Demeter’s intentions banished the old nurse from the palace. Demeter now revealed her true identity and ordered Celeus to build a temple that she would reside in, could grieve in, while a world devoid of her attention, starved.

The Persephone Cycle, Part 2

Left: Plate for Persephone cycle series of prints  Right: "Persephone Cycle II"

Part 2: The Myth of Persephone and Demeter

When Zeus could no longer ignore the suffering of mankind.  He sent Hermes as emissary to negotiate Persephone’s return to her mother.  Hades reluctantly agreed to her release and in parting gave Persephone, who had eaten nothing since her abduction, a pomegranate.  This apparent act of kindness was instead a deception and curse.  Anyone who eats the food of Hades must remain in his realm.  Persephone ate only a few seeds but that was enough for Hades to make the legitimate claim that she must remain with him.

Finally, Rhea, the mother of Zeus, Demeter and Hades, proposed a compromise. Persephone would have to stay with Hades in the Underworld for six months each year. The rest of the year, she would be allowed to ascend to Earth and live with her mother.  Hades would have Persephone as a consort and Demeter would restore Earth's fertility.

Persephone's cyclical descent to the dark Underworld and subsequent ascension to Earth, signify the progression of seasons, Fall and Winter succeeded by Spring and Summer. In the Fall, seeds are buried beneath the Earth and in the Spring, the seeds emerge to grow and flourish in sunlight. 

This cyclical transformation of life after death was celebrated at Eleusis, the site of Demeter’s temple and became known as the Eleusian Mysteries.  Demeter shared her knowledge of plant culture and harvest with Triptolemus who became her priest.  He in turn shared that knowledge with the people of the world and began teaching her mysteries in two types of initiations.  According to the “Homeric Hymn to Demeter” those initiations prepared the aspirant to receive the vision of light, to release subconscious fears and master them.  One was concerned with the reunion of the goddesses; the other concerned the possibility of man's immortalization.

The mythic story of the abduction of Demeter's daughter, Persephone, and her subsequent resurrection and return is thought to have been celebrated at Eleusis for almost 2000 years and it has continued to engage the world for thousands of years since.