During high school, when I lived in Indianapolis, friends and I spent a lot of time in the Holcomb Gardens on the campus of Butler University. On top of being absolutely gorgeous, there are a couple of lovely sculptures. One, in the back corner, is of Socrates. The other is a lovely bronze statue of Persephone in the middle of a fountain, the focal point of the whole garden.
During a trip to visit the Indianapolis Museum of Art two summers ago, I decided to swing by the gardens to show my wife. Seeing the Persephone statue inspired me to create this work.
A VERY Brief version of the Persephone and Hades Story
In Greek myths, Persephone was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter.
One day while she was out picking flowers, Hades, god of the underworld, kidnapped her ( with Zeus’s permission) and took her to the underworld to become his wife.
Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, searched ceaselessly for her daughter and vowed that the earth will remain frozen and no crops will grow until Persephone is returned.
Eventually, Zeus demanded that Persephone be returned to her mother. Before she left the underworld, however, Persephone ate 6 pomegranate seeds. In Greek myth, anyone that consumes any food while in the underworld must remain there. As a result, Zeus declared that Persephone could return to the surface and her mother for part of the year but must spend one-third of every year in Hades.
When Persephone is in the underworld every year, the world is plunged into winter. When she returns to her mother, the world flourishes and blooms.
There are countless debates about whether Persephone willingly ate the seeds or if she was tricked.
My interpretation in this series of portraits is that Persephone chose to eat the seeds and not to leave the decision to Zeus, Demeter, or Hades.
Creating The Persephone Portraits
This was the first time I have ever tried to create an entire digital world for a portrait. It has always seemed like a daunting task (and it was). However inspired by Alana Lee, a good friend, and amazing digital artist, I decided to give it a go.
I knew time was going to be important to create to portrait because, here in Louisville, one can only get pomegranates for a limited time. With the holidays and pandemic, I nervous that the fruit would not hold. So I will admit it, I began to horde pomegranates. Every time I went to the store I’d buy 3. This resulted in my studio refrigerator being too full to store anything else for a couple of weeks, but there are worse problems to have. In January, we created the portraits here in my studio.
I had a vision of what the world of the portrait should look like. We needed to be able to get a sense of the underworld but also to see the outside world as well. I envisioned it as an antechamber to the underworld.
I didn’t want to use any stock images to create the scene, so on a cloudy and cold morning, I grabbed the camera and headed to the banks of the Ohio River. Thankfully, the night before we got the perfect amount of snow, just enough to dust the stones and drift into crevices.
After culling the photos of stones, snow and sky, I had the components to create the portrait’s world.
The Original Plan for The Persephone Portraits
Originally, there was going to be only one Persephone portrait. I knew exactly what I wanted in one image, and we captured it. But as we worked, I felt like we needed to try a couple of things. Explore the story a little. When we finished, one image had become a three piece series. I love each one individually but I think the three of them together tell the story of her decision so beautifully.
The amazing model for this project is Margarita Karižskaja
The hair and makeup is by one of the absolute best in the business, Pamela Butler of The Beauty Patrol
A limited number of prints of each portrait is available for purchase. Contact me for details.
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