This is the third installment of the Over Underworld art exhibit, a virtual release of paintings and sketches in March 2020.
Featured art: Pages from my Dante’s Inferno sketchbook, earlier circles of Hell
The Underworld is not necessarily Hell. But, sometimes we get lost somewhere Not Good, like a Twilight Zone episode. It happened to Dante. For the past year I have been doing a close reading of Dante and making a sketchbook of visual notes. They are not illustrations, but ways to help me remember what I’ve learned.
Reading Dante is like Shakespeare or the Bible; it endlessly unfolds. But I’ll post a few pages from the notebook with some of my observations.
I’ve made up several lists of rules for going through the Underworld from reading Dante. First, a tour guide is worth paying for. Virgil leads Dante through, but can’t go with him to Paradise, as he is a Heathen, but is a good friend. I discovered that Dante loves his non-Christian geniuses of the ancient days, but has a problem with them, as the Church said they were consigned to hell. What to do, what to do?
He makes a beautiful green garden in hell so that these pre-Christian immortals can hang out! The petals of the flower hold the names of his special people. I began to be interested in painting themes from this Canto. I didn’t want to do paintings of the Seven Deadly Sins, but I discovered the Seven Liberal Virtues– top right corner– which are the antidotes for these sins, and am working on an abstract series from them.
Last year I went to the Library of Congress and got to see original Blake lithographs of Dante’s Inferno in the rare books reading room. Here is my pencil copy of Blake’s print, made in the Library, and my LOC library card.
Plagues were a fact of life in the 13th and 14th century. But Dante saw the worst infection as a moral plague infesting his time, with politics destroying peaceful structure and ripping Florence apart. This next sketch features a wasp from his description of demons flying up like swarms of hornets.
This is the Canto that orders, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” I was surprised to find that there was also strong message to live fully when you are alive on earth in the same section! In all that darkness, there is always light somewhere in Dante. Suzanne
Featured work: Pages from my Dante’s Inferno illustrated notes. Not for sale.
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March-April 2020: Over Underworld: New Work