On Illumination and Mary, Part II

"'If he is still the Priest when he puts on his mask; perhaps he becomes a god while he wears it.'"

from Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

In my previous post, I noted how the medieval convention of depicting everybody with tilted, humble heads made executing contemporary ideas and themes difficult. Different art styles come with different grammar, and you can only break so many rules.

Because of the history of this medium, I depict the Virgin Mary fairly often. I decided that if I was so sure that she was a goddess-like figure that achieves apotheosis, I should probably make illuminations of some regular goddesses first. It was springtime, and I was growing an in-ground garden for the first time. I was anxious about the earth, climate change, and crops in general, so I made a Ceres, in the scene in The Metamorphoses when she destroys the crops in her grief and anger.

 

 
 "Winter Ceres"  Gouache, gold ink,and ink on Pergamenata. 2018.

"Winter Ceres"

Gouache, gold ink,and ink on Pergamenata. 2018.

 

The cloth over the goddess' head made me think of C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces, and the idea that inhumanly beautiful gods would have to obscure themselves before appearing to mortals. So for the next piece, when Ceres restores the crops, I replaced her face with an orchid mask. 

 "Winter Ceres"  Gouache, gold ink,and ink on Pergamenata. 2018.

"Winter Ceres"

Gouache, gold ink,and ink on Pergamenata. 2018.

 

Nonhuman heads and masks are hardly new ideas for gods and goddesses, but this was my first time really working with the concept. Obscured or partially obscured faces are scary and cool; Alexander McQueen used it in some of my favorite designs.

 Alexander McQueen, 2013

Alexander McQueen, 2013

 Alexander McQueen,  Joan of Arc,  1998

Alexander McQueen, Joan of Arc, 1998

So the solution for the medieval face problem turned out to be a sort of conceptual stew of "obscurity," "mystery," "masks," and "hey, this might be something to try." I'm looking forward to continuing the Greek Mythology series. See you then!