22 July 2009

Motorcycle Sappho!

Yeah, you saw it ... and now you're going to have to deal with it. Motorcycle Sappho!

Stephanie Huss commissioned this painting for her close friends Beth and Allison as a gift for their commitment ceremony this coming weekend. Steph requested a larger piece than the usual tiny panda size and I agreed to it. (I like Steph, and I can do what I want!). This painting is an enormous 10"x12". It dwarfs everything else on this blog.

Steph didn't have anything specific in mind. She ran some basic information about her friends by me and then asked if I knew of any women in ancient mythology that ruled the world together. I didn't, but mentioned the ancient Greek poet Sappho who ruled the poetry world from the island of Lesvos (from which the word "lesbian" was derived. Etymology!).

Sappho was a respected and popular figure in the ancient world whose work traveled well outside of the Hellenic world. Very little is known about Sappho and what we have is greatly debated. At one time, Nine volumes of her poetry circulated but now only one complete poem exists, everything else is just fragments. (However, I can watch the complete first season of "Charles in Charge" on Hulu...preservation...). Many of here works are love poems to other women.
I bought a board and was going to do an ancient Greekish looking portrait but that seemed to random. I thought it needed some kind of fresh context. I knew I didn't want it to look like the lurid grotesquely-romantic paintings of Sappho that were popular in Western Europe in the 19th century. Half-naked women leaning against each other lounging by the sea.
I showed the original ancient source pictures I was going to use to Beth (Megas, my wife...two Beth's in this story...) because I know she never pulls any punches with me (even when I'd prefer it). Beth was unimpressed. She burst out with "Sappho should be riding a motorcycle". It was the worst idea I had ever heard. ...but it was kind of awesome... maybe?
I wrote our friend Karen Lillis in Pittsburgh and ran it by her. I thought she would be a good judge on the awesome/yuck factor of this one. She was excited about it. I called Steph and she gave me a big thumbs up. Motorcycle Sappho it is.
I changed the basic style and color scheme of this painting more times than I can remember. I originally approached it with the idea of an ancient artifact... but that seemed too gimmicky. At one point it was more graphic and Sappho looked suspiciously like a cartoon Nia Vardalos. There were scorpions and a cobra for a while. It also went through a darker German Expressionist phase. I lightened it up and made it much less angular and we got what we have now. I like this. I didn't want it to be too ridiculously serious or too much of a novelty piece.
If the couple are not satisfied with it, they can scrape off a couple layers, they are bound to find something they like underneath.

In Other News :
I've recently received an image of the piece artist Cara Lynn Kleid made from my request (see "Bonsai!") and I will post that within the week. It's beautiful and kind of wacky! My favorite combination.

Thank you, Stephanie, and my best to Beth and Allison. I wish you many happy years!