‘In Search for a King’ is my effort to create a healthy perspective about male identity. I am not interested in sharing about godly muscles and outwardly handsome fellas like the Greek ideal. I am actually more curious about how the pressures of social norms influence and direct the male psyche negatively which could be traced back to Greek’s bent on perfection. Equally true for women of course. There is a difference between ‘the status quo cultural/social male expectation’, Robert Bly’s ‘Iron John’ and every other male composite in between. This issue is no doubt complex during the history of the earth. When we look at the positive and negative effects of the Industrial Revolution, capitalism, patriarchal structures, binary thinking we can get a glimpse about the cultural evolution of human identity. I am obviously not a radical feminist from the turn of the 20th or from the 50’s but I am deeply concerned as a mom to an 11 year old son, as a sibling to several brothers and as a wife to my husband and dear partner that we respect our gender differences because ultimately gender doesn’t matter, our differences do, and diversity is the way. So why bother than in search for a KING?
I have an art installation coming up in late autumn this year, a narrative about a KING ( the male authority in us) surrendering to larger forces than himself, and while he thinks he is descending into an unstoppable ‘hell’ he realizes this journey is a beautiful release and by this he gains every ‘jewel’ he ever wanted. It is a portrayal of ‘humility’ as a sublime act, a royal transgression that is so un-stately for his kind yet absolutely necessary for social and environmental transformation. Yep, kinda dramatic.
Aside from working out logistics of budget, deadlines and managing assistants for this project I am in the throes of conceptual and material research.
For one, most often kings are presented standing or sitting, dressed in exquisite and cumbersome attire while exuding a strong sense of self, seriousness and power. Google portraiture of a king and you might find it amusing-
Grand, self-assured, he’s got it going on.
Secondly, what of a king reclining and showing off their garments and status? Thirdly, was Gandhi not a King so to speak?
My investigation in this post is to hunt for other possibilities of ‘being’ in my story of a king. So I am looking at reclining Buddha statuary and funerary art as a start.
Above we see a relic of a reclining 42 meter Buddha at Wat Lokaya Sutha in Ayuthaya, Thailand aka ‘The Temple of the Earth’. This temple was destroyed when the Burmese took over the city of Ayutthaya in 1767. The significance behind reclining buddha statues is that this depiction of buddha in serene calm shows detachment from habitual cyclical desire. They are often portrayals of the attainment of Enlightenment just before death.
Early Etruscan Sarcophagus with reclining couple, from the Banditaccia necropolis, Cerveteri, Italy, ca. 520 BCE. Painted terracotta, 3′ 9 1/2″ X 6′ 7″. Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia, Rome. Love this ! what a fantastic portrayal of human life animated while fully aware of our inevitable death. How do you read this piece?
- My thought is this reclining Buddha is seen here in a flood. The placement of the hand supporting the head indicates his passing. So peaceful, so gracious, so beautiful.
But alas the search for a king must continue. Any direction will do…