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Katy Nelson~ Week 4


In this week’s workshop with Tim, we each brought in an item from our past and began the session by sharing the personal significance that our item has to us. I brought in my first piggy bank- which is actually a crocodile instead of a pig but it’s still cute! This is one of my oldest possessions and something that means a lot to me even though I don’t use it anymore. Tim then gave us each some seeds and showed us some 500,000 year old mud samples that had been drilled out of the earth a few years ago, so that we then had something really old, something from our lifetimes and something that if planted could begin its own lifetime into the future- which is quite a crazy thing to think about. We could then create whatever we wanted that was related to these three things over the next few hours of the session. At first I was unsure of what to do, but after realizing I was feeling in the mood to do some drawing I sat down to illustrate my crocodile piggy bank living by a river 500,000 years ago. It is unfinished, but I really enjoyed drawing it!

Butterflies in Greek Mythology

My research into the history of butterflies in different cultures for last week’s post lead me onto reading about butterflies within Ancient Greek mythology, specifically the links that these creatures have to the Goddess Psyche. The story of Psyche and Eros can be found in art from as early as 4th century BC, but the most complete rendition comes from ancient Roman literature, more specifically ‘Metamorphoses’ or ‘The Golden Ass’ from 2nd century BC, written by Apuleius. ‘Metamorphoses’ is the only ancient Roman novel written in Latin to survive in it’s entirety. It tells the story of a man named Lucius, who’s desire to practice magic leads to him accidentally transforming himself into a Donkey. Lucius then sets out on a journey, where he hears many stories, including that of Psyche and Eros.

The Story Summarized: Psyche began as the human daughter of a King and Queen, who’s beauty surpassed that of even the Goddess Aphrodite(Venus). No one would marry Psyche and Aphrodite sent her son Eros(Cupid in Roman texts) to shoot her with one of his arrows so that she fell in love with a beast. However, Eros’s arrow accidentally struck himself and he fell in love with Psyche and decided to spare her. Psyche’s parents were told by the Oracle at Olympus to leave her to the beast on a mountain, and so they did. As Psyche waited alone, the God of the West Wind carried Psyche to Eros’ palace. Eros’ and Psyche were set to be married, but Eros said that she could not look at him in the light. Psyche’s then went to see her sisters, who jealously convinced her to look upon Eros’ true face. Psyche did this, but Eros noticed and left to see his mother, Aphrodite. Aphrodite then found Psyche and made her face four trials, the last one taking her to the Underworld to bring back some of Persephone’s beauty for Aphrodite. However, when Psyche was near Olympus, she opened the box that Persephone had willingly given to her- but the only thing inside was the essence of death. Psyche died, however Eros, who had forgiven her, took her to Jupiter and asked him to make her immortal. Eros and Jupiter made a deal, and Psyche was made immortal. Eros then took Psyche to Olympus, where she became the Goddess of the soul.

‘The Abduction of Psyche’, William Adolphe-Bouguereau,1895,

Oil on Canvas, 209x120cm

The word ‘Psyche’ means ‘soul’ in Greek, but also ‘butterfly’. For this reason, the Goddess is typically represented with the wings of a butterfly. It is easy to see the long term importance that butterflies have had as a symbol within cultures globally, as such popular myths like this one have been shared for centuries and so the beliefs that we have about these creatures have been passed down through generations. I think this story combines fear, anguish, pain and loss with hope, happiness, love and forgiveness in a way that seems to reflect a lot of the emotions experienced alongside death. The butterfly wings Psyche was given represent her being freed from her previous existence and flying off to become something even better.

Arts Centre Tour

This Thursday evening we had the walk-through tour of the Arts Centre, in preparation for the upcoming Takeover and first proposal form submission. This was a really useful rundown of which spaces will and will not be available for us to display our work, and to also get a more in-depth understanding of the flow of the building and how our artworks could fit into this space. I was really taken aback by the height and beautiful conical shape of the entrance to the round studio- it was such an exciting and inviting space and one that definitely seemed unutilized. Another space that caught my eye was the area in front of the giant stone carved walls by the café. The design of these two walls made it look almost portal-like, as if they were a magical entrance to some secret room. The carvings had such fluid movement to them and the repetition of circular shapes kept bringing my mind to ‘the circle of life’- so definitely something that would suit and possibly enhance my project.

The Magic of Life Butterfly House:

This week, to further my project exploration, my boyfriend and I went to The Magic of Life Butterfly House near Aberystwyth. I wanted to witness and watch how the butterflies move through the air and interact with the space around them, as well as to study some of these insects close up and in person. I took many photographs and videos in the few hours that we stayed there, and also got the chance to create two pages of studies.

Highlights of the experience: The movement of the butterflies whilst flying- it somehow appeared fluid yet jolting, elegant yet erratic- almost like when you’re watching a video and it jumps forward by a second or so, and you still know what is going on but just feel as though you missed something? It was beautiful nonetheless. There was a much larger variation in the breeds of butterfly that were there compared to last time I visited in November last year. There were definitely a lot more vibrant, tropical species and they were all full of life, swooping around our heads and dancing with each other. Finally, something I had not picked up on until our last few minutes there… the upside-down butterfly!? Just hidden on the underside of a big leaf, there was the magnificent brown and turquoise butterfly that you can see above in. I am not sure why it was there, and I thought I saw another of the same species doing the same thing on our way out, but I found it intriguingly humorous. It just seemed funny that whilst all the other butterflies were fluttering around hard-to-miss, this little guy was just hanging upside down relaxing by himself! I really do love the photo I got of this though, as it is a very untypical image of a butterfly. Seeing this also made me think about life, death and the idea of realms or realities. Could the butterfly be in two worlds at once- the living and the souls of the dead maybe? Like a bridge or an anchor between life and death. The opaqueness of some parts of their wings being windows or lenses to these other spaces. It’s funny how something so small can trigger so many thoughts and questions.

My Studies from the Trip:

These are my drawings from the Butterfly House visit. There is a mixture of graphite pencil and biro pen, and i tried to capture not just the form of the animals but how they inhabited, used and moved through the space around them.

A Moth and a Butterfly for my Studies…

Whilst at the Butterfly House, I asked the receptionist what they do with the butterflies that have died. I expected her to think my question strange, but instead she brought out four large boxes full of dried butterfly and moth bodies, all of which they had kept to sell to anyone interested in studying them. There were so many, but most had some sort of damage to the wings or abdomen due to them being so fragile, so I ended up buying an Atlas moth and a smaller butterfly (which I am unsure of the name of). I never saw myself being able to buy taxidermy or anything remotely similar, however I feel there is something slightly less morbid about dead insects in comparison to any animal, fish or bird- but that may just be me. The moth is missing a few legs, and neither of them can be moved much but I am genuinely enthralled by both specimens. I intend to create some detailed studies of them both to further my exploration and investigation of the anatomy of these creatures, and hope to get them framed properly in the future for safekeeping.

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