Bad Feminist: Mieke Marple's Solo Show @ Ever Gold [Projects]
Ever Gold [Projects] presents Bad Feminist, a solo exhibition by Mieke Marple who reflects on the ancient Greek myth of Medusa in the era of #MeToo. Taking its title from Roxane Gay’s book Bad Feminist: Essays, in which the author describes a sexual assault she experienced as a child, Marple reflects on historical depictions of women and rape in light of today’s changing understanding of the power dynamics at play within society at large.
Though details of the myth have evolved over time, in Ovid’s canonical telling, Medusa, the most beautiful of the three Gorgon sisters, is raped by Poseidon in the Temple of Athena Nike. Enraged, Athena punishes Medusa instead of her husband, turning the mortal into a half-woman half-serpent with snakes for hair and eyes that turn anyone she looks at to stone. In Ovid’s telling Athena is justified in her punishment, and Medusa’s beauty, not Poseidon’s lust or cruelty, is blamed for both the rape and subsequent violence acted against her.
Marple develops her paintings of Medusa based on three canonical sculptures from Italian artists. The first is Benvenuto Cellini’s Perseus with Head of Medusa (1550), which features the Greek hero holding up Medusa’s decapitated head as a sign of victory. The second is Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Medusa (1640), considered conceptually avant-garde for its time in rendering the moment Medusa is turned into a monster with pathos and humanity. The third is Antonio Canova’s Perseus with Head of Medusa (1804), thematically similar to Cellini’s though less gruesome in detail.
In Marple’s paintings, images of Medusa’s head are layered upon backgrounds of delicate lace, floral wallpaper and luxury brand logos in garish colors, alluding to Medusa's metamorphosis into a symbol of luxury and excess. This conflation of contemporary and classical narratives reinforces the importance of the myth of Medusa as an allegory still relevant today, though greatly in need of #MeToo revision.
Mieke Marple's Bad Feminist is currently on view at Ever Gold [Projects] through January 19, 2019.