Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter, Ēostre, Fertility, and Death.

I woke up this morning to discover that it had rained during the night while I slept. Stepping outside to breathe in the sweet scent of morning and rain, I watched as the pillows of grey fog rolled across the sky, revealing a blue the color of a robin's egg beneath them. The newly blossoming jasmine flowers in my backyard added their fragrance to the air, mixing with the bright chatter of birds as they greeted the day. As the sun stripped the sky of clouds and warmed my face, the morning felt quintessentially spring-like.

Today just happens to be Easter, a day that celebrates resurrection. In pre-Christian pagan tradition, feasts were held during this time of year to celebrate the goddess Ēostre, who became the namesake for the Easter holiday. It was a time to celebrate fertility, revitalization and revival, and the return of life that occurs during spring. In other words, resurrection.

In honor of the roots of this holiday, I'd like to share a piece titled "Pollination," a pen and ink drawing I completed during the winter. As is often the case with my work, I didn't realize the full meaning of this piece until it was complete. It began as a reworking of Leonardo Da Vinci's "Leda and the Swan," a theme that has been visited over and over by many artists since antiquity. It deals with a Greek myth in which a beautiful woman named Leda is seduced by Zeus in the form of a swan. He impregnates her, and she lays two eggs, from which her children hatch (one of the children grows up to be Helen of Troy- an interesting side fact). 
Leonardo da Vinci
Paul Prosper Tillier
Paul C ézzane
Peter Paul Rubens
By the time I was done with the piece, I realized that it was about much more than Leda and the Swan. I saw that it had become a piece about fertility, sex, and death- the life cycle. The piece, beginning at the top, shows a halo chain of DNA encircling a baby as it passes through the pelvis of it's mother, entering the world. In the center is a robust female form, exuding sexuality and standing as the portal through which all life passes. Flowers burst forth on either side of her as pollinating insects and birds flock towards them (I didn't realize the fact that I had included "the birds and the bees" until long after completing this drawing- humorous.) The jellyfish that frame her seemed quite phallic once I had stepped back from the drawing, with subtle hints of female anatomy in the languid folds of their tentacles. Two swan skeletons flank the female figure, giving a nod to the Leda myth. Below her lies a bed of skulls and flowers, representing the death and decay, a return to the Earth, the completion of the life cycle. From conception to decomposition. 

"Pollination," copyright Marisa Aragón Ware.
It seemed like an appropriate piece to share on a day like today, a holiday devoted to the persistence of life and the ever cycling wheel of birth and death. I'm reminded of how fleeting and precious this human life is... I think I'll get off the computer and go play in the sunshine. 

“And still, after all this time, 
the Sun has never said to the Earth,
   "You owe me."

Look what happens with love like that.
It lights up the sky.” 


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Happy Spring!

William Adolphe Bouguerau's The Return of Spring

a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her –
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

~ Mary Oliver ~