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The Trials of St. Sebastian: Hyacinth The Trials of St. Sebastian: Hyacinth The Trials of St. Sebastian: Hyacinth
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The Trials of St. Sebastian: Hyacinth (48"x60" Diptych)

The "Trials of St. Sebastian" series continues themes from "...Translating Theotokos" (see below), in which religious memes from classical art history are re-imagined as discourse on the diseases of postmodern society. In this series, we draw from the early antiquity history of syncretizing Saint Sebastian with Apollo (it was this syncretization that granted St. Sebastian domain over plagues and contributed to his status as a romantic icon and object of male desire).

Each of the St. Sebastian paintings has a sub-title referencing a myth related to Apollo -- in this case, we refer to the story of Hyacinth, Apollo's young lover who Apollo accidentally killed in the midst of one of their games. After his death, the Hyacinth flower sprung from the union of the boy's blood and the god's tears; the Spartans celebrated a yearly festival in honor of his death and symbolic resurrection. The connection between story and image is allusive and designed to be personal to the viewer--for us, the image speaks of the mutual contagion of love and death in the age of AIDS, the conflation of lover and beloved into a single self, and the sense of standing outside one's own body or life, unable to entirely connect with one's own memories.

As always, Artemis and Athena play the role of St. Irene -- acting as healers, supporters, and psychopomps...

Sebastian's Pyschopomps:
Artemis and Athena (study)

In visual sequence, the first St. Sebastian paintings does not, curiously, show St. Sebastian. In traditional art historical paintings, Sebastian was attended by St. Irene, the woman who healed him after his first brush with martyrdom, and often a pair of cherubic angels. In classical vase painting, heroes are often attended in their travails by Artemis or Athena (Apollo's sister and half-sister, respectively)... In our series, St. Irene is replaced by the two children. In most of the paintings, they stand very much in the background, so it seemed only fair to begin the story by foregrounding them.

The Trials of St. Sebastian (Artemis and Athena) The Trials of St. Sebastian (Artemis and Athena)

The Usury of God (Translating Theotokos). The Usury of God (Translating Theotokos). The Usury of God (Translating Theotokos). The Usury of God (Translating Theotokos) (48"x36")

"Theotokos" means literally "The Bearer of God," though in religious contexts it is generally translated as "Mother of God," and is a common name given to iconographic paintings of the Madonna. This translation is, however, an oversimplifcation. The term tokos, translated as "bearer," was, in the ancient world, used to indicate the imposition of a heavy load of debt or oppression (as in English parlance "to carry a debt"). The title of the Madonna, then, could just as easily be translated "Mother of God" or "Usury of God."

In honor of this second, invisible sense of the term, this painting discusses the heavy costs of our relationships between generations and, in a more transcendent sense, our relationships with the divine and with "mother" Earth.

This was the first in our current series of paintings that takes religious memes from classical art history and re-imagines them in a diseased, posthuman context. In a truly metamodern way, these images are meant to be simultaneously reverent and horrific, to both compel and repel, and in so doing to reflect the complexity of our relationships with our environments, our faiths, and ourselves.

Cthulhu Lies (36"x36") was inspired by the intersection of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, the ancient stories of Tiamat, and feminist literary theory about gender and madness. Lovecraft's descriptions of Cthulhu have always reminded us very much of the stories of Tiamat, but of course Tiamat is a primeval goddess. The association of women with madness/hysteria suggests a regendering of the mythos of the sleeping old god(dess?). But the figure here is fragile and seems imperiled... This image explores the ambiguity of power and victimhood; as a suggestivist piece, it leaves the resolution of the image to the viewer. Cthulhu Lies. Cthulhu Lies.

Medusa, In Her Sunday Best. Medusa, In Her Sunday Best Medusa Series. In Greek mythology, Medusa was turned into the snake-haired Gorgon by the goddess Athena as punishment for being raped by the god Poseidon. In classical art, she is almost always portrayed as dead, having been killed by the hero Perseus (as a further punishment for her rape and subsequent monstrous appearance). However, in the mid-20th century Medusa was reclaimed as a feminist symbol by writers such as Cixous. Our Medusas examine the relation of this story to current gender norms, and issues of rape culture and body shaming.

Medusa, In Her Sunday Best (54"x36") shows Medusa (still bruised from her attack) tragicomically trying to fit into the gender roles prescribed for proper women. The piece has a humorous touch, despite--or perhaps because of--the seriousness of her own attempt.

This Medusa, Her Word Against His (54"x36") , does not treat the subject so lightly. It portrays the aftermath of Medusa's rape in brutal detail, and yet focuses on her agency -- victimized, she also discovers her own strength.

The third piece in this series, which is still in progress, is titled Medusa, Her Sister Steadfast and presents an imagined scene that might have transpired had Medusa's sisters (the Graea) refused to betray her location to Perseus. In this alternative gynocentric ending, Medusa nurses her twin children, Pegasus and Chrysaor (in the original myth she had been pregnant when Perseus killed her, and the children crawled out of her mangled corpse).

Medusa, Her Word Against His Medusa, Her Word Against His

MANDEM (MFA, Studio Art) - Painting, Assemblage/Collage, Film, Sculpture, Book-Making. With an academic background in mythology, critical theory, and gender/queer studies, MANDEM works across media and materials, intentionally destabilizing genre in terms of content and media. MANDEM's work has been widely exhibited and published. As Maize Arendsee, MANDEM can be found teaching university-level art classes and presenting original art historical research at academic conferences.