Blue Beards Wife, Eating a Pomegranate" (detail, above) 18" x 24" colored pencil and paper collage on panel
Blue Beard, a mysterious man, takes his new bride far from everything she knows to live with him in his castle by the sea, their very own Garden of Eden. She knows that she is not his first wife, but the last in a line of seven women, all of whom have passed away. The husband provides his new wife with everything she can imagine, and they enjoy a brief honeymoon period. Before he departs on a business trip, Blue Beard gives his wife a ring of keys that unlock every door in the castle. She may do with the keys as she likes, save one. He tells her, “For that is the key to my own private study, from which I forbid you to enter.” Of course, the girl’s curiosity gets the better of her. She enters the study and finds it to be full of the bodies of all his previous wives. Worse, the offending key has become marked from its forbidden entry into the lock and the curious girl’s fate is sealed. Upon her husband’s return, he will learn of her disobedience and she will join his other naughty wives in The Bloody Chamber.
The girl in this fairytale reminds me so much of another woman who indulged her curiosity at great cost. Eve. The key and the fruit of knowledge both serve as the same tool. However, at the end of The Tale of Blue Beard the girl is rescued and Blue Beard is the one who meets a gruesome end. The morals of this fairytale become blurred. Curiosity wins the day, and order, rules and oppression, are flouted. Here we see Blue Beards Wife reveling in all her carnal knowledge.
"Good Girl / Bad Girl" (left) 48" x 36" colored pencil, gouache, acrylic, ink, and paper collage on panel.
Gifts from fairies are strange.
Rewards falling from mouths?
A good, humble daughter, hardworking without complaint and disinterested in material gain is rewarded for her kindness: with rubies, diamonds and pearls that fall from her mouth each time she speaks!
Her wicked stepsister is only interested in personal gain and gratification. She is henceforth punished for her grandiosity with toads and snakes falling from her lips.
Here the two girls are linked into one, two sides of the same coin. One side exploits the other. The Good Girl, whose immaterial nature is irreverently rewarded with material blessings, her words forever lost in the tumbling forth of jewels. Does this symbolize the value of kind words, or is it just the objectification of a girl whose is now reduced to life as a candy dispenser? The Bad Girl who unapologetically sought this verbal bounty, silently stares at us, confronting our attraction to those who seek their fortune ruthlessly, regardless of the reptilian consequences.
The Sibyl Admiring Her Saturday Reflection" (detail, above) 36" x 48" colored pencil and acrylic on panel
The powerful Sibyl is the writer of prophecy, a mother of fables, and the keeper and protector of grimoires (spell books). Many luminous tales about the Sibyl tell of her epic adventures. After the fall of paganism she withdrew to a cave at the top of Monte Sibillini to live secretly in everlasting paradise, her stories still told in hushed voices.
In 1420 the author Antoine de la Sale tells of a German knight’s quest to the Sibyl. The knight discovers her at last in her grotto of earthly delight. The beautiful ageless people living there speak easily to each other in every language, sharing all thoughts. In nine days any newcomer converses with equal aplomb in this land of constantly blooming flowers and bountiful feasts.
However, the brave knight wonders why his Sibyl shuts herself away from him each Saturday. He spies upon her and discovers that on this day his lover turns into a great monster and all her maids to serpents. She is just an illusion, a trick of the devil, and he realizes he must set himself free. On the 330th day, (the final day upon which all escape is impossible) he makes his getaway. In Rome, the knight seeks forgiveness for his season in hell, but the Pope refuses him absolution. So the knight chooses to return to his beautiful Sibyl and live in bliss forever more – except on Saturdays.
Beguiled, The Folklore of Women : Statement
The stories, or fairytales, that we are raised on today are often of the same archetype as those that were told before the invention of writing. Learning about the world through allegories is entrenched in how we define ourselves as individuals and cultures.
The oral tradition of story telling was often passed down from woman to woman, the most obvious example of this today being the archetypal Mother Goose. She is the caricature of the everywoman, embodying the wet nurse, the governess the grandmother, the crone or the sibyl. However, unlike some of her predecessors all the bite has been taken out of Mother Goose, her tales live within the nursery alone.
Fairy tales evoke our deepest feelings of loss and love. Perhaps because of this, they have been poked and prodded by philosophers, psychologists, historians and others.
Fairy, fata fate
Etymologically, the word "fairy" comes from the Latin Fata, the feminine variant of Fatum that designates Destiny. Fata is also the past participle of the deponent verb Fari (speak) and thus means "having talked" in the feminine. Fairies are the heirs of the Parcae who weave men's destiny: they speak in the feminine form and their words have a prophetic dimension.
The abundance of symbols, the lack of depth of the characters, and the over-simplification of the situations have made fairy tales a favorite field for psychoanalysts who endow them with universal significance.
I would like to thank author Marina Warner, whose book From the Beast to the Blonde was a fountainhead of information and inspiration.
"Hunters Kiss" (right) 20" x 16" colored pencil, gouache, acrylic and paper collage on panel.
Stags are ripe with often-contrary symbolism. They represent virility, strength, and grace, as well as cuckoldry. Stags also appear as messengers leading heroes through the forests to greatness, enlightenment, or demise.
While hunting in the woods, the hero Actaeon stumbles onto the secret bathing place of the virgin goddess Artemis and her attendants. When she discovers him lustfully spying upon her, she turns him into a stag. Thus unrecognizable, Actaeon encounters his own hunting party and is torn apart by his hounds. In another telling Actaeon simply boasts that he is a better hunter than the goddess, and the same fate befalls him.
The transformed man embodies both the hunter and the hunted. Inherent paradoxical strife in a single body is what makes using the symbol of a stag-man so enjoyable.