The stories of Dryope and of Lotis are intertwined, their beauties trapped together.
Dryope, a lovely young mother, plucks a lotus, unaware that this blossom is a transformed nymph, Lotus. The flower starts to drip blood, and Dryope suffers the fate of being turned into a tree.
The lotus described by Ovid (Metamorphoses Book IX) is a plant of fantasy, open to botanical interpretation, though I see her clearly as the water-lotus, long classified a nymph (of the Nymphaeaceae family). She is warmblooded still, almost unique among plants in her ability to maintain her body temperature, just as she used to do when she played with human beings.
Sacred to Hinduism and Buddhism, she rises pure and glowing from the muddy riverbed. As I draw her I feel myself drawn into this tradition of worship, but also into the tradition of centuries of classical artists painting the ideal woman, all translucent skin and soft curves….perfect petal, perfect complexion.
According to the Ancient Greeks, nymphs were also guardians of the sacred spring of water that symbolizes knowledge - knowledge that was powerful and possibly dangerous. “To approach a Nymph is to be seized, possessed by something, to immerse oneself in an element at once soft and unstable, that may be thrilling or may equally well prove fatal” (Calasso, Roberto: Literature and the Gods)
My paintings of Dryope evoke the shock and horror of dropping the baby and of losing control over her body and her life. The creeping bark is like an insidious disease, a paralysis that the sufferer can feel invading her body and yet is powerless to slow or stop. In “Dryope Transforming”, a whirlwind of fear and loss is created by the sense of her spinning around, frantic, seeing the various parts of her body overtaken by the tree-forms, becoming rooted and trapped.
In “Dryope: Passion”, as a gesture to her innocence and suffering, I crowned her with thorns.