In our quarantine Underworld, we need a wildlife field guide. We are wandering through a dark, foggy place, the upside down world. Or we are caught in stasis, like a formerly productive worker bee trapped in amber. And then we come upon a monstrous beast…
The Bitch, above, is part of a series of Underworld animals. I start with random marks, and the paint-beasts emerge from the darkness, almost like a negative developing in a bath in the old world of photography. Since I believe Hell to be states of emotion and being, the Beasts are instincts turned to shadow and gone bad. All underworld animals are generally about the mouth or maw, devouring or spitting fire or venomous. All tend to have big red or floating eyes. And many cultures have Underworld dog creatures, like my Bitch, like Dante’s wolf.
I’ll let you wander in the Underworld with my Beasts for a moment. The worst Beasts threaten to devour us during this Quaran-time: boredom, apathy, bitchiness, physical illness or disfunction, anxiety, cruelty to others with whom we are trapped, anger, denial, fear. What freezes you when it happens? What drives you to the couch, the bottle, your OCD activity, the Netflix binge? That’s your Beast.
All Underworld beasts cannot be ignored. You have to greet them, while avoiding being eaten. You have to placate them so you can get by them and on to the next stage of the journey. I have found three major modes of placating and soothing them, at least according to mythology.
- Feed them. Honey cakes seem popular. Get to baking! Spread some sweetness around.
- Play music for them, or better yet, make music for them. Music makes them wander off or doze off. Music soothes anything that is savage within us. Making music, even at an amateur level, or trying to make or play music, opens a sort of beautiful mathematical or emotional space that the Beasts just can’t enter. Or you can also sketch them or poem them or paint them. Create-a-beast. They become friendlier.
- Make a sacrifice to appease them. Give something up to keep them calm or at bay. It’s like Lent. You give them something that you will miss, like gossip or drama, or too much social media.
I was happy to learn that there is a tradition in China of underworld Horses and Oxen. Perhaps Cash Cow, below, belongs to this tradition. This was painted in 2017, shortly after the Trump inaugeration. The cow is America, bought for cash and kept chained and overused for milk until it dies. Perhaps the little flying mosquito-like stars are the attack of the coronavirus.
Dear Readers, I have new work, but have not been able to get to my studio to properly photograph it, due to movement restrictions. I will try to do this next week so we can see what grows out of the Underworld– The Tree of Life– in the next Over Underworld Art Exhibit releases.
In the meantime, placate those Beasts. All be well, Suzanne
This is the seventh Over Underworld release, a online art exhibit of paintings and sketches in March 2020. Featured art: Bitch, Rocket Bunny, Underworld Herd and Night Hunt, all original acrylics on panels, all $450. Cash Cow, acrylic on canvas, $750. Available. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Events in 2020
March-April 2020: Over Underworld: New Work, a virtual art exhibit of paintings and sketches released on Saltworkstudio, Facebook, and Instagram. #dantesketchbook #overunderworld #saltworkstudio