Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Trapped Butterfly Dance - mixed media 2008

Trapped Butterfly Dance is a new mixed media work that I finished in October. Many trips to Kroger, Publix, Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart were made in order to buy enough sewing pins. Attention comparison shoppers: Walmart is the best buy (of those stores). The piece is surprisingly heavy, and I could inflict some serious damage with it, if I chose to. But I'll play nice. The color on the jpegs is slightly off - it reads more black and white than the piece actually is. I haven't worked with pins since 1997 and I'd forgotten how time consuming and tedious it is (ha!), but I do like the overall effect. The work shimmers, with light reflecting off of the silver pin heads and the metallic beads.

Kym Hepworth, Trapped Butterfly Dance, mixed media, 2008.

Robin and I have been watching a lot of music documentaries & films this year and we went through a mini Joy Division bingefest. In interviews, Ian Curtis's famous/distinctive/frenetic/epilepsy-inspired/ style of dancing, sometimes described as the trapped butterfly dance, was often talked about.



In mourning art imagery, the butterfly is a symbol that represents resurrection, or the soul's transformation and flight back to God. The symbol of a hand pointing up can symbolize the pathway to heaven, reward for the righteous, or life after death. Its opposite, a hand pointing down, symbolizes mortality or sudden death. In Trapped Butterfly Dance, a lead sinker hangs from each wing of the butterfly, a skeleton hand points downward, and pins surround the butterfly.

photograph of a hand pointing up on a gravestone

Detail, Trapped Butterfly Dance

At the age of 23, Ian Curtis committed suicide on May 18, 1980. It is some people's religious belief that if a person has not been saved and commits suicide, his or her soul is damned and will go to Hell. (Personally, I do not share this belief.) Certainly, in terms of Victorian religious beliefs, suicide would not be considered a "good death", and Victorian mourning art reflects the religious beliefs of the time in its symbolism. These are the 20th century/19th century associations behind the imagery of Trapped Butterfly Dance. I considered including a photograph of Curtis in the center of the butterfly, but, as the work progressed, I decided to make it less specific and added the teardrop bead instead.

Detail, Trapped Butterfly Dance

Other sources of inspiration include specimen collections of Victorian amateur naturalists, butterfly wing art, and, of course, the boxes of Lucas Samaras - the artist who OWNS pins. Here's a quote by Samaras: "When I began using these sort of aggressive materials, I suppose I thought of them as being...painful...and touching them or having them in my presence was a disturbing thing, but then after I began using them, they stopped having that quality for me...They were seductive, maybe...They would assert themselves somehow, so that our senses would be...played with." Yep!


Lucas Samaras, Box #1, 1962. (Source for photo and quote: Lucus Samaras: Boxes, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois, copyright 1971.)


And here's a bit of trivia. Lead sinkers played a part in Lizzie Borden's alibi for the murders of her father, Andrew, and her step-mother, Abbi. When Lizzie was questioned about her whereabouts at the time of the murders, she stated that she was in the backyard barn looking for lead sinkers for a fishing trip. And then she ate some pears in the loft. But I digress...

Detail, Trapped Butterfly Dance

No comments:

Post a Comment