Persephone

“If only we are willing to give right names to things, this is no harm that has been done, but only love …”

—Ovid (Metamorphoses)

“‘No regrets,’ she said.” 11x14 inches, oil on canvas, now hanging at the  Baum School of Art  until February 7th.

“‘No regrets,’ she said.” 11x14 inches, oil on canvas, now hanging at the Baum School of Art until February 7th.

"No regrets,” she said…

I’ve been asked many times to explain the title of this painting. First, I have to tell you about one of my favorite Greek myths, the story of Persephone. In the version I know best, Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, who was the harvest goddess. When Hades, the god of the underworld, saw Persephone picking flowers in the springtime, he immediately desired her for his queen, and he kidnapped her. Demeter had a fit and finally she convinced the king of the gods, Zeus, to intervene and bring Persephone back to the land of the living.

However, Persephone had already eaten six pomegranate seeds, and because of this, she had to remain in the underworld six months out of the year. She could return to her mother and the warmth and sunshine during the other six months, thus explaining the changing of the seasons.

Hades offering his kidnapped bride a pomegranate , pen and gouache sketch, 8x10”

Hades offering his kidnapped bride a pomegranate, pen and gouache sketch, 8x10”

“If only we are willing to give right names to things, this is no harm that has been done, but only love … But if you so greatly desire to separate them, Persephone shall return to heaven, but on one condition only: if in the lower-world no food has as yet touched her lips. For so have the MOERAE decreed." (Zeus to Demeter. Ovid, Metamorphoses)

“Temptation” oil on canvas, 5x7 inches, January 2016

“Temptation” oil on canvas, 5x7 inches, January 2016

This myth could be interpreted in two extremely different ways. On the one hand, it could be a story of regrets and shame, and of a woman giving into temptation, making a poor decision which condemns her to a life of misery and darkness, and even shame, like Eve.

OR…

On the other hand, it could be a story about a woman claiming her power and her full self. The Underworld needn’t be a hateful, hellish place. Rather, it could be seen as one’s unconscious, or creative inner-world, the dark side which we all have, which is a part of us. This could be a story about a woman claiming both sides of herself; light and shadow, and literally becoming a Goddess.

And so she says to herself, “No regrets,” either because it is true, or because she wishes it to be true. She knows it is pointless to harbor regrets and shame, because the fruit needed to be eaten. The seasons needed to change.

She was ready for this change.

And, perhaps she truly loved him…

“ Eve ” 14x11 inches, oil on canvas.

Eve” 14x11 inches, oil on canvas.

Further Reading:

Eve: the concept of felix culpa (blessed fault), and the portrait of my friend Heather (above)

Poems about Painting: Part 4 (comparing Eve and Persephone)

Persephone: an interesting website I found

Hades Welcomes His Bride: a poem by A.E. Stallings

Persephone Writes a Letter to Her Mother: a poem by A.E. Stallings

(both poems are from the book Archaic Smile)