Friday, June 1, 2007

Mirth and Melancholy

Raegan dropped off her work yesterday afternoon! The pieces look great, I couldn't help myself but "ooh and aah" as each piece came thru the door. One of the things I enjoy most about Raegan's work are the stories behind each piece. We sat on the floor and I listened to her explain the significance of certain elements and the personal journey of this most recent body of work.

As soon as she left, I proceeded to hang the show. Raegan's work looks great in this space. The rich textures and her earthy palette look great against the brick, not to mention the old wood floor I recently exposed. The hanging went quickly and I am quite pleased with the end result!

Most of the work in the show is inspired by Raegan's recent trip to Russia this past fall in addition to her garden outside of her studio. However, one of the pieces in the show, Melencolia I, is inspired by an engraving by German Renaissance master Albrecht Dürer, of the same title. It is an allegorical composition which has been the subject of very many interpretations.

"One interpretation of this etching is that it represents the frustrations of an individual trying to invent something ingenious but failing at the task, and feeling depression or melancholy as a result. In the engraving are various symbols of scientific reasoning, such as numerical patterns (the number square) and scientific measureing tools (the weight balance and the hour-glass for precise time measurement). A hammer represents a tool that would be used to manufacture an actual product based on the ingenius idea. The dog and the baby angel represent those who patiently encourage the genius, but eventually fall asleep. The frustrated genius lies awake in the after hours, determined not to sleep until the new idea arrives." (Wikipedia: Melancholia I)

In Raegan's Melencolia I, she borrows elements of the original composition integrating the angels from the Dürer with her own language to reinterpret the symbolism of the master engraving. She has replaced the number square with a lunar calendar, the bell with a modern day horn and the hour glass with the symbol of infinity.

It is no wonder, that Melancholia I, has been the subject of more modern interpretation than almost any other image in art. Artists have been putting this pressure, of creating a "masterpiece", on themselves for hundreds of years. Isn't it ironic that Dürer's frustration with wanting to create a masterpiece would actually result in just that!