Vessels - Separation and Perfection

Vessels from All Things Are Always Changing

Roberto Calasso in The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony discusses control of the nude in terms of separation:

"As the Greeks see it, elegance arises from excavation, from the cavity.....The epidermis of the Greek statue is so sharply separated from all that surrounds it because it is carved out of the air, whereas Mesopotamian or Egyptian statues seem to have grown up from the ground."

This complimented our idea of evoking Greek sculpture in order to separate the body from any recognizable context and emphasize it's metaphorical function of "vessel."

Lynda Nead states this Greek approach another way:

"The female nude can almost be seen as a metaphor for these processes of separation and ordering, for the formation of self and the spaces of the other. If the female body is defined as lacking containment and issuing filth and pollution from it's faltering outlines and broken surfaces, then the classical forms of art perform a kind of magical regulation of the female body, containing it and momentarily repairing the orifices and tears. This can, however, only be a fleeting success; the margins are dangerous and will need to be subjected to the discipline of art again...and again.

Our Vessels have been contained, but their disproportion challenges.


Meditations on Venus-and her peers

It is thought that Venus was born 31,000 – 40,000 years ago at the beginning of the Aurignacian era. What were they thinking then? Was the depiction of oversized breast, exentuated buttocks and genetalia a deliberate exaggeration of the sexual features? Are these proportions unrealistic or wishful thinking? Do these figures resemble your grandmother or pornography?

Catalhoyuk Goddess

Cucuteni Venus, Drăguşeni, 4050-3900 B.C

Cycladic Venus, 2800 to 2300 B.C.

Venus Dolni Vestonice Gravettian Czech

Malta Venus

Venus from Mesopotamia late 5th c. B.C.E.

Venus of Hohle Fels,.ca. 36,000 years B.P E.

Venus of Willendorf

Divinations - Cosmic/Comic Systems

Divinations - All Things Are Always Changing

"I see the past, present and future existing all at once"

--William Blake

Theorize on the beginnings of abstract thought....

When the brain enters the symbolic work of a notational system, it has broken off the thing from the thing notated. Then the symbol can have a life independent from the phenomena it represents: an eclipse can be calculated without the eclipse moment, the full moon predicted years before the event. (p. 187)

from Sacred Numbers and the Origins of Civilization by Richard Heath

Pythagoras, ca. 570 to ca. 490 B.C.E.

R. Buckminister Fuller, 2004

It seems the British, perhaps intoxicated by the energy emanating from their sacred stone monuments, are great proponents of numerical systems to that refer to qualitive and archetype life forces. The usual suspects appear: John Bennett/Laws of Synchronicity, Psychologist C. G. Jung, Pythagoras, M. C. Escher, Buckminister Fuller, base twelve number series and of course, Glastonbury and so many more. These systems of the laws of the universe operate out of time; events come together in a meaningful way that has no causal explanation; coincidence; synchronicity.

For Example [referring to Robert K. G. Temple, Oracles of the Dead, Rochester, Vt Destiny Books, 2005] "In his investigations of oracular connections to hexagon shape and other derivitives of root three, Robert Temple has found the hexagon in most surfaces, especially those in which there are energy transformations such as melting or freezing. The skin of the body is a set of flattened hexagon shapes, and cells in general use six-fold tubes as intercellular valves through their membranes. Earth's atmosphere often forms hexagonal convection cells, which are echoes of those created on the solar surface. (p. 141)

from Sacred Numbers and the Origins of Civilization by Richard Heath

While these quests are entertaining and provocative, we do not care to explain or control. Our work is about reflection, resonance and channeling the energy.

Divinations - The Desire

"But the runes that I rehearse understand the universe"

--Emerson, Poems. Woodnotes

Divinations from All Things Are Always Changing

13th century text based on Greek observations

Fibonacci Sequence

What we present in our configurations of Divinations section is the compelling human desire for Holy Revelation. Humans carry a metaphysical desire to understand ultimate power...the holy word. Sacred images don't just refer to, they ARE what they stand for.

Divinations from All Things Are Always Changing

Astronomy and sacred number symbols were developed from man's constant star gazing and recording of astronomical phenomena. Celestial knowledge was knowledge of a power beyond the self. The star symbol is found on more relics and in more ancient sites than any other design, followed by spirals and chevrons.

Divinations from All Things Are Always Changing

Runic glyphs or runes are used for divination and spelling out a magical language of sacred truth. In this context, runes are symbols of magical energy. The word is thought to have evolved from the german RAUNEN, "to cut or carve." Raunen may also have meant "to whisper secrets," rune is the noun for secret.

Divinations - Rune Research

Scattered torsos resembled a sacred alphabet

from Divinations, All Things Are Always Changing

The Divinations section evolved after a substantial amount of shooting had been done. A number of figures were not vessels, more like lumps of flesh in primative configurations. Scattered about on the studio floor, they bore resemblance to runes. Sounded good....but what exactly ARE runes?

Rune Research is wide ranging on the internet, from new age, goddess worship, archaeological scholarship, linguistics and art history. It dragged us back to a favorite topic mythology, how it works through time and civilizations. The information fluttered about and connections were made.

The accepted ancient rune alphabet is the Elder Futhark, based on Germanica/Norse dialects of the 2nd to 8th centuries A.D. Practitioners modifyied letters of Greek or Roman alphabet in order to faciltate cutting them on wood or stone or flesh.

There is speculation that Cro-Magnon man developed a sacred writing system 20,000 years ago. Most captivating is the idea of an "alphabet of the metaphysical" introduced by archaeologist Marija Gimbutas in The Civilization of the Goddess: the World of Old Europe. She posits sacred scripts of rune signs in use from 17,000 B.C. by a "mother civilization."


Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess: the World of Old Europe

Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess

P. M. H. Atwater, Goddess Runes

Richard Heath, Sacred Numbers and the Origins of Civilization

Cyrus Herzl Gordon, Before Columbus

Barry Fell, America BC

The next step was to begin to transcription.

initial Divinations images


Vessels - All Things are Always Changing

Vessels from All Things Are Always Changing

When we began photographing ourselves and other women in 2003, we noticed that we we no longer had the firm flesh of our youth.

While we photographed we wondered about the Greeks, western civilization's authority on the articulation the human form. We began asking questions and looking for answers about Greek sculpture and philosophy, art history, representation, beauty.....We agree with Linda Nochlin:

"Nothing, I think , is more interesting, more poignant, and more difficult to seize, than the intersection of the self and history. Where does biography end and history begin? How does one's own memories and experiences relate to what is written in the history books? Can one complain of distortion in historical writing when, inevitably, with the passage of time, our own memories of events and experiences become confused, filmy or uncertain? "

from Representing Women

Our initial photographs became the Vessels section of All Things Are Always Changing.

Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon, 447-438 B.C.

When invoking the ancients, we felt it important to know the who, what and when, in order to honor and understand our inspiration:

from Heilbrun Time Line

Archaic period, ca. 700-480 B.C.

Classical period, ca. 480-323 B.C.

Hellenistic period, ca. 323-31 B.C.

Roman Rule, Greek mainland, ca. 146B.C.-330 A.D.

I'd like to call your attention to Greek Art and Visual Thinking, a most informative blog.

Vessels - What's with the stumps?

Vessels from All Things Are Always Changing

When we began photographing the female body in 2003, we needed a way to neutralize the individuality that came with gesture. By eliminating the head and limbs on the figure, we focused the viewers attention on the body; the vessel through which all experiences flow and which is embellished with the scars of a lifetime. By doing this we invoked ancient classical Greek sculpture, scarred and broken over centuries of human civilization. Yet, without Classic proportions, the read entirely different.

Auguste Rodin, The Walking Man, c. 1900

What were they thinking when they rediscovered Greek sculpture?

Pediment sculptures were removed from the Parthenon at Athens and from other ancient buildings and shipped to England by arrangement of Thomas Bruce, 7th Lord Elgin, British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire (1799–1803).

When the Greek treasures of statues and artifacts began to be excavated, sculptor Antonio Canova was consulted regarding the necessity of complete restoration or renovation. Canova felt these temple sculptures were sacred, therefore acceptable as they were. His judgement initiated the Modern view of the fragment. Rodin was the first to implement the aesthetic of the fragment and use it for his own aesthetic agenda.

from Art of Ancient Greece, Claude Laisne

Although our agenda was to neutralize sexuality and personality and to emphasize a temporal metaphor, a number of young women questioned what they found to be a violation of the integrity of the whole figure. It is an interesting unintended consequence that for some, the issue of violence toward women trumped art history.

for more see post Vessels - Photographic Representation of the Body

Vessels - Greek Proportion and the Ideal

Vessels from All Things are Always Changing

Classical Greek sculpture defined the concept of the ideal which as been debated and examined ever since.

Greek sculpture encapsulate greek virtue of sophrosyne, or self knowledge characterized by a belief in inner retrain and denial of excess...it articulates a greater psychological presence.

According to Tom Flynn in The Body in Three Dimensions, the Greeks felt body proportion, balance and equilibrium to be the most elevated expressions of human life. Principles of rhythmos (composition) and symmetria (commensurability of parts) were grounded in mathematical proportions...and comprised the Canon of Polykleitos of Argos also Pheidias of Athens (450-430B.C. - high classical period). The Canon was appropriated in the renaissance by both Leonardo (in his Polykleitan Canon) and Michelangelo (in David).

Polykleitos, Spear Bearer/Doryphoros, ca. 4th century B.C.

an assortment of vitruvian men

Leon Battista Alberti (1404 – April 20, 1472)

Mirroring the Greeks, Italian renaissance architect, Leon Battista Alberti, defines " beauty to be a harmony of all the parts, in whatsoever subject it appears, fitted together with such proportion and connection, that nothing could be added, diminished or altered, but for the worse"-- a controlled relationship among the separate parts creates the ideal.

from Nathan Knobler, The Visual Dialogue

We were not the first to question the Greek ideal and proportions grounded in their sacred geometry.
We felt our proportions were based on our own biological geometry. Are they any less sacred or authoritative?

Like most visual artists we were seduced by the amazement of light falling on flesh achieved by the use of contrapposto.

Praxilites, Hermes, 4th century B.C.

We agreed with Rodin: the side view of the ancient Greek sculptures accommodated light streaming down their torsos and limbs, expressing reason and balance above all things.... from Art of Ancient Greece, Claude Laisne (p.185-6)

Alexandros of Antioch, Venus de Milo, ca. 130-100 B.C.

In the Hellenistic period, transgression had begun: Venus de Milo lost classical mathematical proportions and the provocative drape held up by her pubis was decadent.

Michelangelo, Slave, 1505-1547

In the later slave sculptures by Michelangelo hollow torsos celebrate the triumph of darkness and self-absorption.

Despite our proportional transgressions, Flynn encouraged us noting that "the body has moved into sharper focus as a theoretical tool for questioning structures of power, ideology, and identity across a range of visual materials....no longer an unchanging, biological fact, but as a historical and cultural category changing with prevailing social, political and economic forces. (p. 9)

Vessels - Cnidian Aphrodite, the first and the best

Our first model. Vessels from All Things Are Always Changing

Cnidian Aphrodite, by Praxiteles, Classical Period 330 B.C.

Cnidian Aphrodite, rear view

The first female nude celebrated in Greece was Praxiteles' Aphrodite of Cnidus (supposedly his mistress, Phrynea). Though clearly a goddess of sex, does her hand really cover "the source of her powers" as a gesture of decorum and modesty? Or does she indicate ownership of her posession? How "decorous are the Greeks"?

Painting, Greek vessel ca. 400 B.C.

Kenneth Clark informs us that "the drift of all popular art is toward the lowest common denominator, and on the whole there are more women whose bodies look like a potato than like the Cnidian Aphrodite. The shape to which the female body tends to return is one that emphasized its biological functions; or to revive my openng metaphor, Aphrodite is always ready to relapse into her first vegetable condition....[S]he had passed from religion to entertainment, from entertainment to decoration; and then she had disappeared" by the 2nd century A.D....she had lost her meaning. (p. 93)

Albrecht Durer, nude, 1530

"When [Venus] emerged again, everything made by man had changed its shape: clothes, buildings, written characters, systems of thought and morals; and the female body had changed also, "it combines the humble body of Eve appropriate to our first unfortunate mother and the ogival rhythms of Gothic ornament".

Zeuxis Choosing Models from the Beautiful Women of Croton, FrancoisVincent, 1789

Another first, the story of the painter Zeuxis (b. 464 B.C.). Diligently he contrived to make the perfect woman, a composite Aphrodite (5 body characteristics = 1 venus). Albrecht Durer claimed to have studied 2,000 to 3,000 bodies to get it right.

from Love and Desire by Willliam A. Ewing

Venus de Milo (late 2nd century B.C) is our generations most popular Venus. Considering her placement in the Louvre, is her preeminence about visibility and marketing?

In 1821 Quatremere de Quincy, French antiquities advocate and administrator, assumed Venus de Milo was the depiction of the goddess of tender feelings overcoming the bloodlust of battle, a personification of peace after war.

Marqis de Riviere thought Venus di Milo was a realistic representation of Phrynea, mistress of Praxiteles. It was clear to him that the Cnidus Venus was the idealized version of this same woman. Regardless, everyone speculated on what she was holding.

How does Marilyn Monroe compare as another candidate for this generation's first Venus. What is the role of mystery and the imagination in this quest?

Vessels - Beauty and Power

Vessels from All Things are Always Changing

The Nude by Kenneth Clark is a 60 year old survey of art history addressing the nude. Based on his observations, Clark sees beauty as balancing proportional geometry with a vivid symbol of desire. We asked whose geometry and whose desire?

Clark informs us that the pioneer archeologist and art historian, Johann Joachim Winckelmann (December 9, 1717 – June 8, 1768) "has asserted that whereas the male nude might achieve character, the female nude alone could aspire to beauty: an assertion uninfluenced by personal preferences but by his theory that beauty consists in smoothness and continuity."

It is of interest that Winkleman felt that the Hellenistic Laccoon was the greatest sculpture because it depicted physical drama in it's rawest state: at the instant of a man's greatest effort within his power. How did it come to be in western civilization that ideal female beauty and power are no longer mutually exclusive. What are the consequences?

left, William Blake (1757-1827), Satã observando o amor de Adão e Eva
right, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Anne Dashwood, 1768

"The ideal is like a myth in which the finished form can be understood only as the end of a long process of accretion. In the beginning, no doubt, there is the coincidence of widely diffused desires and the personal tastes of a few individuals endowed with the gift of simplifying their visual experiences into easily comprehensible shapes. Once this fusion has taken place, the resulting image, while still in a plastic state, may be enriched or refined upon by succeding generations, or to change the metaphor, it is like a receptacle into which more and more experience can be poured. Then, at a certain point, it is full. It sets".... Blake and Reynolds conclude that "ideal beauty was really the diffused memory of a typed developed in Greece 480-440 B.C." ( p. 14). Currently, power seems to be pouring into the still unfilled receptacle.

Robert Mapplethorpe photograph of Lisa Lyons

Vessels - Regulating the Nude

Vessels from All Things Are Always Changing

Women carry around their bodies for a lifetime. In large measure we come to understand ourselves as vessels through which ideas, biology and experience pass and flow.

Representation of the female body through history is problematic because

traditionally the audience was male. The female and her body traditionally came to represent that which is irrational, non-cerebral and in many religions, evoke anti-social or transgressive behavior. Lynda Nead (Theorizing the Female Nude, p. 6) argues "that one of the principal goals of the female nude [in western art history] has been the containment and regulation of the female sexual body." Classical Greek sculpture defined this task.

Kenneth Clark discusses Titian and Corregio as they perform the thorny task of defining the boundaries of sacred and profane ecstacy.

Titian, Rape of Europa, 1559-62

"Titian was an unbridaled sensualist. His Europa has profoundly unclassical ideas (e.g., sexuality) which are raised to respectability by his color sense and imagination."

Correggio, Jupiter and Io, 1530

Correggio on the other hand produces the "delicate tremour of the flesh" in his elegant depiction of the rape of Io by Jupiter. How should we view their success today?