Those who are familiar with astrology or astronomy (or indeed the apropos theories plural of Greek time) will already know that all life is cyclical. Perhaps then, it is no real coincidence that I should revisit my own ancient beginnings. I have been researching a lot of ancient and pre-history lately, for various and converging projects, and simultaneously looking to the future in really big ways. And somehow all of it is pointing backwards AND forwards to Greece and the Mediterranean, and specifically, to the ideas I explored in my first major body of work: my undergraduate senior thesis, titled Opening the Box: Exploring the Myth of Pandora.
The Pandora project was completed as my senior thesis work in the spring of 2012. It won the Joe and Carol Trimmer Prize for Outstanding Honors Senior Creative Project/Thesis awarded by Ball State University’s Honors College. The thesis paper and all of the images will be collected and republished later this year for the first time since 2012. This project was foundational for my career and still encompasses all that I stand for and hope for my art career to be.
I had always planned to re-release this collection of work in 2019, and while I have pushed that release back a bit from my originally intended publication date of August 2019, somehow everything around me appears to be pointing to this. To Pandora, to cosmology, to ancient history and future plans and underwater photography, religion, and myth, all of it swirled up together in ways that maybe aren’t actually meant to ever be untangled. Maybe the entanglement is part of the wonder of it all, in the end.
So, both running behind schedule, and paradoxically right on time, I present a preview of the upcoming republication of the Pandora project. Make sure you join my email list here if you want the latest updates on this publication!
Opening the Box: Exploring the Myth of Pandora
Why do we, as humans, treat each other so often with malice, spite, and vindictive cruelty? Why do injustice, pain, and heartbreak exist in the world? Why do bad things happen to good people? Where does evil come from? These are truly universal questions, ones that everyone from every age and race has grappled with since the beginning of time. This is evidenced by how many times this theme comes up in the folk tales, mythologies, and stories from every culture across the globe, which is exactly what I am exploring with this academic and artistic undertaking.
Arguably the most well known explanation today for the human condition is the biblical story of Adam and Eve. Perhaps the runner up for proposed explanations is the Greek myth of Pandora’s box. A vastly simplified version of this story is that the god Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and brought it to Earth so that man could benefit from its warmth. Zeus was enraged and so he created Pandora, the first woman, who was a beautiful disaster. She was to be the downfall of man, for her insatiable curiosity was meant to unleash all of the evils with which we currently deal.
Stories, particularly the story of Pandora, are how we as humans explore, explain, and examine the human condition. At its core, this is exactly what Opening the Box does as well, in a fabricated space not unlike mythic or fantastic worlds in stories such as Mount Olympus or Middle Earth.
For me underwater photographs have always been reminiscent of some other realm. They are abstract and otherworldly. Sometimes eerie, but always ephemeral and magical, underwater photographs seem to be from, of, or about another reality, where earthly rules of physics do not apply. With the Pandora project, I am after this otherworldly effect. I want the pieces to have the qualities of underwater photography that I like, because that is what I’m drawn to: the flowing fabric, abstract ripples and bubbles, and ethereal feeling. What I do not want them to be is merely “people dressed up and playing around in a pool” which, as raw images, they tow the line. By adding the paint, I remove them from the context of the pool (a specific sight with specific connotations) and place them instead in an ambiguous, universal “underwater” space- a fantasy space. The value of which is the same as the value of fantasy literature. In the same way as fantasy authors (which invariably includes the people who originated myths and folklore like “Pandora’s Box”) create fictitious worlds in which to explore themes of the human condition, I am creating fictitious, fantasy spaces in which to explore the very same themes.
With the Pandora project I am trying to explore the great mystical basis for truth in general; for humanity at its core, and life on earth. Since the beginning of time, people have been searching for the answers to the mysteries of life. Though we have exponentially advanced our scientific understanding of the world, I would argue that humanity as a whole is no closer to understanding questions to the oracle such as “why is there evil?” Therefore, it bears going back to the roots of humanity and civilization, to all of the varying cultures that developed across the world, to look at the explanations they devised. Perhaps in this universal archetypal story can be found a commonality that provides at least a hint of the answer.
By creating imagery that does not directly illustrate, but rather is loosely based on Pandora and her literary cousins, in an imaginative space, with unique connections between stories, I hope to offer a new look at the human condition and all that it entails.