Sculptures at an Exhibition

Posted on October 15, 2012, 1:53 pm
5 mins


I adore Greece. I have traveled there several times and I intend to make many return trips. I think all artists must feel (in varying profundity) some connection to the ruins and art preserved there. I have no trip planned on the horizon, but I was briefly transported there by an exhibition in the Portland Art Museum—The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece. To mark the occasion, I was delighted to extract some tiny fragments (historical, philosophical, and aesthetic) for my e-wunderbox.

Sense of humor
The exhibition was made possible through the collaboration of PAM and the British Museum. The opening was a tastefully designed and elegantly executed black tie event and lecture, spiced with dry British humor. I admired that even the Lord Elgin’s somewhat dubious activities in Athens in the XIX century and their consequencess were treated with the same charm and diplomacy. Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, was a very colorful historical figure. He not only substantially expanded the collection of the British Museum but also enriched the French language by inspiring a useful eponym for the imperial age: “elginisme.”

What does it mean? “Predatory deprivation of historical /architectonical objects of their decorative and sculptural elements.” …often using crow-bars, jig saws and some explosive materials (but only when absolutely necessary).

The lord was not an exception. He was only one link in the chain of looters, who throughout the history had ransacked the Acropolis and Greece.

…(I do not remember who) pertinently said that we do not read Homer, we do not look at Giotto’s frescoes, we do not listen to Mozart. But Homer, Giotto, Mozart watch and listen to us….and they state our vanity and our stupidity, finding us uninteresting (in the best scenario) if not boring. That sentence reverberated inside of my head when I was entering the exhibit of the iconic marbles and bronze, sculpture, vessels, funerary objects and gold jewelry.

Neither a youth peeking into the eternity from the stella at the entrance nor the milky-eyed goddess of love looked at me. They did not find me interesting enough.

But I suddenly got the attention of a small, figurine from my favorite Greek Islands—the Cyclades. She is strong and elegant and also painfully “modern.” She could be a model for Jean Arp or Constantin Brâncuși. Very little is known about her and her sisters. They belong to the category of the mysterious objects which may never be understood. But her raw beauty and her natural strength needn’t any explanation—for me. They are simply, beautifully timeless.

…there is a boy who plays with memories of his playmate—or the empty space that the former left behind. The missing playmate despaired and was lost on the bumpy road of history. One can see the fragments of his foot on the pedestal. One can see another fragment of his body in the hands of the other. Nothing else. One is left alone with the inscription, one’s imagination, and the empty space that is so eloquent and so mysterious. I was halted by that sculpture. It spoke or perhaps complained to me with its calm and milky language.

The color of the language
How could I imagine the original colors of the Antiquity? I do know that they were vibrant before the erosion and the elapse of time had replaced them with the milky color of Greek marble, just a color of watered down milk with no smell and no taste.

I mean his head only. Who was he? Where did he live? Why was he immortalized in marble? What did he do? Whom to ask? His neighbor (from the exhibition) the divine Hera was not in a chatty mood. She was busy, perhaps musing over her Olympian affairs and looking passionately with her milky eyes at me and at the others visitors.

Did she find us interesting?

Both of its eyes were

The sophisticatedly drawn eyebrows and the empty eye sockets—what a contrast! Together with divine Hera and the Barbarian, it creates a mysterious tension that has fascinated me. To extend that moment, I have promised myself to revisit the exhibition before 6th Jan. 2013, when it closes.