Return to Cithaeron
Mixed Media on Canvas: Acrylic, Recycled Burlap Bag, Recycled Egg Carton, Recycled Packaging Material, Recycled Cardboard, Repurposed Faux Fur Collar, Ribbon, Beads, Twine, Wooden Skewers, Paper, Unryu, Branch, Yarn and Cabinet Lining.
Size: 36” x 48”
“When women drink, and their eyes light up like the wine itself, then I say, Goodbye to decency, the animals are out.” (Euripides, The Bacchae, lines 348-351)
Do you remember Cithaeron (aka Kithairon)? Geographically, it is the mountain range in central Greece between Boeotia and Attica. It is here that the Bacchantes performed sacred rites to Dionysus, the god of wine. Here, women abandon all reason and control in favor of intoxication, ecstasy and madness. Each Bacchante unites with her primal self, the uninhibited self that is governed by pleasure and carnal satisfaction. She dances. She drinks. She copulates. She kills. In Euripides’ The Bacchae, the tragic hero Pentheus is slaughtered by these possessed women. Dionysus orchestrates this murder not to show human depravity, but rather to demonstrate the need for balance. The character Teiresias instructs:
Here are two principles for you, the two supreme principles in life. First, the principle of earth, Demeter, goddess of the soil…This provides the firm solid base in man. Second, the opposite principle, Dionysus… We drink him down, we swallow his power, and he comes alive in us. Then we soar, we fly, we are free, and through his agency man can know some happiness…Dionysus is here…accept him. (The Bacchae, Lines 373-385 & 421-422)
Pentheus refused to accept Dionysus—he refused to invite the second principle into his life—and for that he was doomed.
Cithaeron exists within each of us. Cithaeron beckons us to release our tight grasp on life and celebrate the joy that is life—relish the sublime beauty of existing, having a body and being a part of nature. My subject’s return to Cithaeron is psychological. She is on the cusp of letting go, releasing, inviting Dionysus in. It is likely that she will partake in a ritualistic dance that requires such a mental shift. She aligns with the forces of nature by surrendering control. You may call her insane, possessed, and even sick. But, she is nature.
Dionysus is the one who sends you dancing out of your mind, flings you laughing out of yourself…Take me there, Dionysus, I’m calling you… Dionysus, child of the universe, comes to life in my laughter…He hates the man who says no. No to the day, No to the night, No to life, and no to all love — Keep away from that kind. (The Bacchae, Lines 521-523; 558-559; 560-564)
A Note on the Process: I allowed this painting to evolve into something quite different from my initial intention. In the beginning, I struggled tremendously, because I wanted the canvas to adhere to my original vision. However, my frame of mind shifted drastically between the conceptualization phase and the actualization phase of the art process. So, when I began painting my initial concept, it didn’t feel honest. It felt forced. After a period of trying to force this vision into existence, I decided to abandon it. I abandoned control. I no longer tried to control what my subject looked like, or what my subject communicated. In so doing, I embraced my role as a conduit. I became the channel through which an intangible abstraction became a physical reality.
A Note on the Materials: The majority of the materials used in this mixed media painting are recycled. I cut a Royal Basmatic Rice burlap rice bag into squares to create the cloak for the subject. I recycled coffee sleeve cardboard dividers to create the wings of her headdress. I upcycled an old faux fur collar to create the horn-like effect.