For many years I have immersed myself in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, tales of passion and transformation among gods and goddesses, people, animals, trees, rivers, stones. An invitation to exhibit at the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in 2008 sent me on an expedition into the indigenous myths of that country, discovering parallel stories.
The tales I uncovered were of cosmic snakes, the mesmerizing power of the gaze, the floods of chaos and creation, the possibility of rebirth through water.
From the peoples of the Orinoco and the Amazon arose a worship of the plumed serpent, also known as Huiio, the supernatural anaconda, mistress of all water and mother of everything living in it. Ovid describes the first giant creature to emerge from the primordial mud as a python the size of a mountain.
Shedding its skin in repeated renewal, the snake itself symbolizes new life. Her powers are echoed in Medusa, the snake-haired monster, who becomes also la meduse, the many-tentacled jellyfish that itself metamorphoses through several forms in its development.
Even while moving away from Ovid’s narratives I remain true to the spirit of his “seamless song” . I investigate transformation at its most primitive, involving transparency and permeability of boundaries, in “the depths of the sea for which (our) blood is still nostalgic”.
Ovid tells the story of Cadmus, who, with his beloved wife Harmonia comes to the evening of his life, weighed down with misfortunes. He regrets once kiling a giant snake that may have been sacred - “If it was, then the certain wrath of the gods punishes me, and I pray to become a snake myself”.... And as he speaks he feels scales growing on his skin...then his form starts to change, his tongue splits in two....his wife, initially horrified, moves into his embrace...”and suddenly they were two,and they snaked together and slithered into the secret woods”. Ovid Metamorphoses IV. transl. Abe Frank) Ovid describes the erotic tenderness of their entanglement. I also see them wrapped together in a shape that resembles the figure-eight of infinity, since their union represents perfect eternal harmony.
In Skin Flux I portray Cadmus’ change as a process of explosive fragmentation and coalescence. He is neither human nor snake, and yet both.