An Attack of History
I’ve always had a love of prehistory and the first historic cultures. I envy the people for whom beauty is part of everyday life and people were profoundly sure that they were of the earth, not simply on it. The stories that survive through the ages are those of heroes and orators, people doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do, what the gods expect, and what upholds a family’s honor. History is now told in battle dates and body counts, but in the end the real tragedies are within; the ultimate goal is living at peace with one’s conscience.
We’ve “progressed” to become a people who ridicule those whose top priority is something other than the bottom line and where making a profit is infinitely more respectable than recognizing a neighbor in need. Young people are encouraged to strive for lucrative professions above all else at the expense of nurturing curiosity about geography, world religions or philosophy. There is no room in the curriculum for art or music, and certainly no room to learn the value of other cultures’ literature or humanity.
Because of the impact this has on my outlook, my personal iconography developed into an eclectic mix of ancient figures and lost alphabets mixed with so-called utopian ideals. I love the elegant gestures in paleolithic cave paintings, so many of the people and animals in my work are drawn from rock art. I try to capture the solidity of prehistoric structures that evoke such a sense of mystery. The figure in the silk painting above is based on pictographs of Çatal Hüyük, at left. The brick dwelling is the Gallarus Oratory in Ireland.
Another of my silk paintings is an idyllic landscape overlooked by the Goddess of Brassempouy, an ivory carving that’s only 1 1/2″ high in reality, but quite a serious presence in my painting. She’s 25,000 years old. The animals are based on cave paintings from Lascaux, and the people from African rock paintings in Chad.
The superheroes of my youth may have been Mighty Mouse and Superman, Albert Schweitzer and Jane Addams, instead of Odysseus or Gilgamesh, but they shared a common goal: to help those in need and to do what they could to set wrongs to right again. There’s something bizarre about tv ads showing people stopping each other from walking out into traffic or helping to pick up dropped papers. These are not exactly heroic acts and shouldn’t be portrayed as extraordinary deeds. Even as I move into young-old age (and despite what my Republican Mother says), I can’t accept that it’s naive or idealistic to expect people to look out for each other.
Entry filed under: All Posts, art and artists, symbols / personal iconography. Tags: Africa, Althea Peregrine, AltheaP, ancient art, brassempouy, Catal Huyuk, Gallarus, golden rule, heroes, interior decor, Janine Maves, landscape painting, lascaux, silk painting.