29 April 2012

Spring Cleaning: The May Queen


And it's whispered that soon if we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forest will echo with laughter.

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now,
It's just a spring clean from the May Queen
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on.
And it makes me wonder.

Your head is humming and it won't go, in case you don't know
The piper's calling you to join him
Dear lady, can't you hear the wind blow, and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.
Robert Plant


Images:
Julia Margaret Cameron The May Queen, 1874
Howard Pyle The Lady Guinevere 1903
Margaret MacDonald The May Queen, 1900

22 April 2012

Turned to Stone: Medusa


Medusa was one of three Gorgon sisters. All three were vicious with sharp fangs, brass hands and hair composed of living venomous snakes. Medusa was mortal while Stheno and Euryale were immortals. But her sisters could not turn men into stone with their gaze. Franz von Stuck (1863-1928) was a German Symbolist/ Art Nouveau artist, designer and architect who often chose mythological subjects for his work. His painting of Medusa shows the hero Perseus holding her severed head as a shield and weapon. Swiss Symbolist painter Arnold Böcklin (1827-1901) believed that art should make people dream as he does with his disturbing interpretation of the disembodied monster. Perhaps most provocative is a woman’s view of Medusa. American painter Alice Pike Barney (1857-1931) used her daughter, Laura Clifford Barney as the model for her blue hued creature trapped by circumstance.

07 April 2012

When Sheep Fly: Happy Birthday Aries


The astrological sign of Aries is associated with the Greek myth of the flying ram who rescued Phrixus and his twin sister Helle. The children of Althamas, king of Boeotianm they were hated by their stepmother Ino. She devised a plot to have them sacrificed while their natural mother Nephele sent the golden ram to save them. The twins were instructed not to look down durning their flight to freedom, but Helle did, falling into the sea and drowning. A Pompeiian fresco depicts Phrixus on the ram trying to save his sister. The courageous beast is also represented by the Emperor card from the Tarot deck. He is a figure of leadership and domination. In the fifteenth century Visconti-Sforza tarot deck the Emperor is shown holding his scepter of power in his right hand and the world in his left. On his head are the wings of an eagle echoing the shape of the ram's horns. American artist Georgia O'Keefe (1887-1987) painted a ram's scull with white hollyhock enigmatically floating over the Southwest desert.

Happy Birthday to my Arian Cousin, Carole!

01 April 2012

White April: Diamonds and Daisies



The diamond is the birthstone for the month April. Ancient Greeks believed its watery beauty was the tear of a god or goddess, Romans thought it was a splinter from a fallen star. Today the gemstone that is associated with engagement rings is also called "blood diamond" if it is mined in war zones and sold to finance rebellions. Nordisk familjebok, or Nordic familybook shows a page of famous diamonds. The Swedish encyclopedia was published between 1876 and 1957. Companioning the diamond is April's birth flower, the daisy. The name is a corruption of "days eye" because the flower head closes at night to be reborn in the morning. A still life of Daisies and Violets is provided by Léon Bonvin, (1834-1866). The French artist made his living as an innkeeper but after he married his financial situation worsened. When his sepia toned watercolors were rejected by an art dealer he hung himself. Mary of Burgundy (1457-1482) by contrast was wealthy and the first recorded recipient of a diamond engagement ring. Her privileged life ended at the age of twenty-five when she was thrown from a horse while riding with her husband. Fortunately her youthful beauty was captured by Austrian painter Michael Pacher (1435-1498). Diamonds may be forever but life is not.