For those of you who are up on ancient Greek mythology (I don’t know – is anyone anymore???), I’m sure you’re familiar with the story of Pygmalion and Galatea. If you need a refresher for this tale, here it is in a nutshell:
Pygmalion, a sculptor, carves an ivory white marble statue representing his idea of the perfect woman and then falls in love with his own creation, which he names Galatea. He prays to the Goddess Aphrodite (Venus in the Roman version) who then answers his prayers and brings the statue of Galatea to life.
This story has inspired many artists over the years, including Jean-Léon Gérôme, a French painter who created the lovely painting to the right in the late 1800’s. My painting “Requiem for Pygmalion” was in turn influenced by Gérôme’s painting as well as the Greek myth. The Goddess Aphrodite / Venus might have made Galatea a living woman for Pygmalion, but was she independent of him or was her supernatural life intrinsically linked to his?
If the latter were true, what would happen to her after Pygmalion – a mere mortal man – dies?
In my imagination, once Pygmalion grows old and dies, Galatea turns back to stone. However she isn’t beautiful white marble anymore but rather a rougher, darker stone showing age and wear. She is broken and alone in a desolate landscape. The ragged cloth can be seen as both a funerary shroud and perhaps the remains of a once beautiful garment that I’m sure Pygmalion gave her long ago.
This speaks not only to mythology, but to real life situations that so many of us face every day – the loss of a spouse, a child, a parent, a lover, a friend. Death and decay is part of life on Earth that cannot be escaped. It’s a common experience that comes to all living creatures eventually and when it happens, we feel broken, alone and desolate in our grief and loss.
Though Death inevitably comes, there is still a cyclical elegance present as I hopefully captured in this painting. There are beautiful contrasting colors in the sky and subtle violets and blue tones in the stark landscape. The ragged shroud flows freely and gracefully with the winds and even the broken Galatea holds a stark beauty.