I’m doing storytelling from the beginning Cantos of Dante’s Inferno today. I’ll be on Facebook Live at Saltworkstudio Facebook at 10 AM, 1 PM and 5PM Pacific Time. Join me for some Dante sketches and their stories! I’ll only post one sketch now as a preview.
We are all waiting now. The ancient is new again. Ancient metaphors bring light to modern vision. Thank you for joining me in my Over Underworld project. Suzanne
This is the fifth Over Underworld release, a online art exhibit of paintings and sketches in March 2020. Featured art: Pages from my Dante’s Inferno sketchbook. Not for sale.
Events in 2020
March 25, Wednesday, is Dante Day in Italy, a new annual national holiday to honor Dante. I will be storytelling from my Dante sketchbook at Saltworkstudio via Facebook Live. See event for more details. FB live times: 10 AM, 1PM and 5 PM Pacific Time.
This is the fourth Over Underworld release, a online art exhibit of paintings and sketches in March 2020. Featured art: Pages from my Dante’s Inferno sketchbook, Cantos 1 and 2.
Since Italy has its first national Dante holiday this year on March 25, I’m releasing Dante sketches instead of paintings for the next few posts. May celebrating his poetry help Italy heal .
We are Dante. The poem opens to a scene of attack and menace. The lion is ambition to rule, the despot. The leopard is worldly luxury and lust, hedonism, consumerism. The wolf of avarice, of greed, is always hungry. After she eats, after feeding, she is hungrier than before, literally insatiable. Dante is lost in the woods, and all is lost.
I choose to see Dante as a guide through Underworlds, the times when we are trapped, in despair, lost, yet we know we are somehow on a journey, a lonely road. We need our guides. Virgil is Wisdom, who guides us through the “arduous and savage”way.
He also calls on his beloved Beatrice, who has died and gone to heaven. She appears with her girlfriends: Rachel, who symbolizes contemplation, and Lucia, who is clear vision, eyesight, and light. They indicate their approval of his journey, and then we don’t see them again for a long time. They are all making a brief visit from heaven. Hell is not their style.
So gather your friends: Wisdom from the past, Light, Meditation, Divine Love. Dante needed his beloveds to help him continually trust that he would have guidance during his pilgrimage . I noted that “Hell is forgetting that there is a paradise.” Keep to your dream-path. It’s actually a Divine Comedy, even if we walk through Tragedy along the Way. Suzanne
Featured work: Pages from my Dante’s Inferno illustrated notes. Not for sale.You may share this freely.
Events in 2020
March 25, Wednesday, is Dante Day in Italy, a new annual national holiday to honor Dante. I will be storytelling from my Dante sketchbook at Saltworkstudio via Facebook Live. See event for more details. FB live times: 10 AM, 1PM and 5 PM.
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.
Another open studio? Another First Friday? Really? My current new project is a series of illustrated notebook pages on Dante’s Inferno and the Underworld. Not really a high demand there, unless perhaps you are a dead person of the 13th century. For years I have struggled with the ideas of supply and demand in art. I saw demand as a corrupting influence, producing Thomas Kincaid cottages, pet rocks, and social media addiction.
“What limits creativity is not the lack of good new memes (i.e., ideas, products, works of art), but the lack of interest in them. The constraint is not in the supply but in the demand.”
I know and work with so many amazing artists, most of them unfairly obscure, in my SOFA Santa Rosa neighborhood. We are everywhere, and we are creating. The supply is high. You could argue that perhaps we have saturated Sonoma County with our good work.
Csikszentmihalyi says that perhaps the limitations of creativity come from scarcity of attention for the products. “Unfortunately, most attempts to enhance creativity are focused on the supply side, which may not only not work but is likely to make life more miserable for a great number of neglected geniuses.”
He goes on to say, “But usually the necessity of ‘selling’ one’s ideas is seen as something that comes after the creative process ends and is separate from it. In the systems model, the acceptance of a new meme by the field is seen as an essential part of the creative process [my italics].
This gives me hope. I always knew there was something wrong with the neglected genius / Van Gogh model, birthing beauty into a silent or hostile void. I hope that I can joyfully enter the creative stream anywhere, either creating new art or by readying the field for it. Thanks, Mihaly.
More frequent posts
I’ll be posting several times a week now, probably. Fair warning! These messages are part of my own creative process. Later I’ll offer a monthly newsletter format.
If you’re going through an Underworld passage right now– as our whole country is– stay safe. I’ve seen and heard a lot more random racism and everyday hostility around me than usual. The decay at the top and the inaccessibility to universal health care is wearing us out.
Saltworkstudio Events and Classes 2019
SOFA Santa Rosa First Fridays 2019, 5-8 PM. Informal open studios neighborhood-wide. Find me in Backstreet Gallery, down Art Alley behind 312 South A Street, Santa Rosa, CA. Map here.