Underworld

Pop Culture seems almost a misnomer. It’s offerings are discussed,debated and anticipated. Almost inseparable at this point from American culture is the concept of a spoiler alert. Binged watched shows masking so-so writing with the compulsion to see what happens next. To know ahead of time of a characters death or other plot developments is to take away a major component of a work’s strength.

This is a more recent phenomenon as with many books of the western cannon or the ones which have served as a template for countless other stories such as Romeo & Juliet, we know what will happen, has happened but still get enjoyment from the journey.

I find myself often returning to Homer. Of course the trajectory of the characters’ narratives are well known to me now at this point but it still manages to offer up delight, like revisiting a well known city held dear.

There is one scene in the second part (The Odyssey) where the (anti) hero Odysseus/Ulysses is going to talk to the shades of some of his fallen comrades. To do so he must follow a complicated ritual which involves spilling out of oil, incantations and spelling things out on the earth with a stick.

During my last rereading of the epic it occurred to me that most of us now can not even remember or know anyone in our lives phone numbers as our phones do all that kind of thing for us. (this includes myself too). Yet Ulysses was given the instructions and doesn’t even write it down, he remembers it and executes it perfectly.

I got to thinking, an idle stream of thoughts where i started transposing Homer and Ovid to our times and vice versa. In some versions of Orpheus’s tale he is merely allowed to wait at the gates of the underworld for Eurydice’s shade to follow. In other translations he does equivalent of in the front door out a close by side one.

If there is ever time travel then there is already time travel. The afterlife too would be a sort of loop, so I imagined it as a vast city not necessarily of the epic poet’s visual vernacular. A dense city which is one part crumbling metropolis from Blade Runner and also the dense urban pile ups from parts of Mumbai and Hong King.

Orpheus must make his way through all this chalking up the weird architecture as merely one more otherworldly phenomenon beyond his ken. The shades are all crying out for help, lamenting all that they have lost or are cut off from, bitterly laughing or trying to cajole him into watching.

My Orpheus isn’t seen though. Maybe he is coming out, alone. Maybe he already left. He could be one of the active silhouettes in the window, finally reunited with Eurydice after having met his savaged fate. She had been everything to him. His extreme joy at their prospect of their initial reuniting and then inconsolable grief at their second separation at Hades’ exit was a powerful cosmic force. Now, reunited, they are just two more silhouettes in a vast city of shades. We are all the main characters in the movie of our lives but longing remains a force to reckon with.

It has looked like mars around me so i have not been able to paint. I am fortunate that I can still draw and collage regardless of light conditions and burning eyes and sinus. This collage is 11×14. As usual there is no digital magic worked. I used scissors & adhesive applied with brush to images which I personally photographed.

4 thoughts on “Underworld

  1. I love your colleges so very much. One of the best things I love about them, is that they are real and not digitally manipulated in any way. So much to see and appreciate. Thank you Wayne for sharing your genius with us. Sending you love.

    Liked by 2 people

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