ArtSake recently caught up with the artist Colleen Kiely. She and her artist book group are participating in a group exhibition based on the book The Odyssey’s recent translation. Rumor has it that ArtSake has spotted Argos wagging his tail in approval of this show.
My work is included in The Odyssey Project: An Old Story for Modern Times at the Museum of Art, University of New Hampshire, Oct. 30 – Dec. 14. The exhibition features work by fifteen women artists, all members of a long-running book group who created art in response to Emily Wilson’s new translation of The Odyssey, the first English translation by a woman. The artwork encompasses different styles and media and explores themes including the meaning of home; loyalty; families; migrants; war; poverty; identity; and transformation. Participating artists are Nancy Berlin, Ruth Fields, Carol Greenwood, Jane Kamine, Colleen Kiely, Marilyn Levin, Jennifer Moses, Karen Moss, Sterling Mulbry, Carla Munsat, Ellen Rich, Judy Riola, Civia Rosenberg, Brenda Star and Sandra Stark.
While re-reading The Odyssey twenty years after my first encounter, I read it from a very different perspective. Though the theme of the hero and the quest continues to pervade culture (ex: Harry Potter, Star Wars, etc.), we live in the era of Me Too and the anti-hero. This time, two specific aspects of the poem resonated with me.
First, the rich spectrum of female characters – including goddesses, sorceresses, monsters, wives and slaves – caught my attention. Some women are named (Circe, Penelope); some are not (the slaves in Odysseus’ home). Regardless of rank, all women are subject to the patriarchy of their world, but Wilson hints at greater complexity. I aimed to communicate a range of inner states of the women/girls, as Odysseus is the traditional focus of the poem. The second element was the water – Ocean, the mythical river encompassing the known world, and the seas. Ever present, the water suggests images of fluidity, transformation and peril. Working with water-based paint, I merged these two motifs in process-driven fictional portraits, creating women in a state of metamorphosis.
The Odyssey Project: An Old Story for Modern Times, thru December 14, 2019 at the Museum of Art, University of New Hampshire, Durham. Artist panel talk Wednesday, November 20, 12:10pm–1:10 p.m with Colleen Kiely, Ruth Fields, Jane Kamine, Jennifer Moses and Sterling Mulbry.
Image credit: All images courtesy Colleen Kiely. From top to bottom:
1.) Opening reception for The Odyssey Project: An Old Story for Modern Times on 10/30 with some of the participating artists. L to R: Jennifer Moses, Carla Munsat, Judy Riola, Ruth Fields, Carol Greenwood, Colleen Kiely, Civia Rosenberg and Jane Kamine.
2.) Colleen Kiely with her work, Goddesses, Monsters and Mortals, 2019, acrylic on canvas. Each painting is 14″ x 11″, overall grid size 52″ x 42″.
3.) Installation shot, L – Lamentation; Portrait of the Poet as a Young Owl; and Migrant, all 2019, by Sterling Mulbry. R – A Bitter Bedtime, 2019, by Ellen Rich.
4.) Installation shot, L – Goddesses, Monsters and Mortals, 2019 by Colleen Kiely; R – Penelope’s Trick, 2019 by Carla Munsat.