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Exhibitions: Past

"Tragical, Comical . . ."

Art Shaken and Stirred via the Literary Tradition

Works by B. Lynch

March 6 – April 2, 2008

Tragica Comical... Tragica Comical... Tragica Comical... Tragica Comical... Tragica Comical... Tragica Comical... Tragica Comical...

In our life’s journey, we know few things.
We are born and we die.
We long for connection.

Many of our belief systems incorporate particular rituals - and some of these customs explore notions of death and regeneration. They represent, in symbolic terms, our essential struggles with what it means to participate in the cycle of life, of understanding our place within the universe. It is thought that basic shapes such spirals, circles, meanders, and labyrinths describe this longing for identity and connection.

These archetypical elements of expression have survived thousands of years and are manifest in countless ways. In visual language spirals can be defined as universal symbols of growth, ever expanding. In ritualistic terms, labyrinths are a manifestation of the cycles of birth, death, and renewal.

B. Lynch is both a painter and figurative sculptor and makes works that often cross disciplinary boundaries. Through traditional and contemporary media such as video and installation she looks at the ways in which elemental questions such as - Who are we? Why are we here? – have been approached through out the ages.

The installation of "Tragical, Comical . . ." Art Shaken and Stirred via the Literary Tradition, provides the opportunity for each of us to experience a walk through the labyrinth, to descend into the underworld and return once again to the light of day. For this particular exhibition, Lynch's place of reference is the myth of Orpheus, his journey through the underworld to bring his lover, Eurydice, back into the world. A story like this, though framed within the context of Greek mythology, has played out in numerous ways across the centuries. Contemporary renderings include the novel Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows or the recent film, Pan's Labyrinth, by Guillermo Del Toro. The challenge, the test of worthiness, the willingness to risk one's own life for that of another, is timeless.

Kathleen Hancock

The Artist

B. Lynch

An Essay by B. Lynch

Regarding "Tragical, Comical . . ."
Art Shaken and Stirred via the Literary Tradition

The major themes for this exhibition are Death and Renewal. Artists and writers throughout human history have explored these ideas. Some of the sources are very ancient while others are up to the minute. This essay explores both the visual and literary source material.

The work on display often references more than one literary source. Also the visual symbols can seem contradictory. For example the snake symbol can mean rebirth or evil, or function as a phallic symbol or a tempter. Sometimes various stories that feature the same characters reference quite different readings of the same visual image.

By myth, for purposes of this exhibition, I mean a story featuring characters that address meaningful human themes so well that subsequent ages borrow, re-fashion and tweak the story to their satisfaction. This tendency of myth to not play "fair" -- to be a shape shifter, mutating in form and purpose -- can be frustrating or exhilarating depending on one's sensibilities. If one can let go of a fixed definition of the stories, actors and symbols, the richness of what artists have mined from this golden ore becomes evident.

The black site-specific installation is made to mimic for the viewer a descent into the Underworld, echoing the poet Orpheus' own journey to retrieve his lover, while also teasing our collective memory of the Cretan Labyrinth and the Man/Beast: the Minotaur . In the 20thC, Jean Cocteau, the French film director created his famous movie, Orphee . He allows us to see the passion Orpheus has for his art. His re-imagining of the myth is what set this exhibition in motion. Throughout the show I have tried to choose work that cozies up to other myths so that the entire installation transforms and changes as one follows the relationships.

Now we are off and running – cruising the byways of myth and symbol. The Minotaur as a man/beast brings to mind some of Shakespeare's creations: Bottom as the Ass in Midsummer Night's Dream and Caliban in the Tempest. As for the Underworld, Dante's 14thC epic poem, The Inferno, part one of his trilogy The Divine Comedy, describes the circles of hell (a labyrinth of sorts) and has inspired many visual artists, from Corot (19thC) to Michael Mazur (a living artist). Dante's Hell and the uncomfortable fate of those sent there frightened and titillated his Medieval audience.

The installation's core story is that of Orpheus, Eurydice and the Maenads (my Snake Maidens). Both in literature and visually it has had many manifestations. The most ancient renditions of the Orpheus and Eurydice tale have some surprising riffs. Eurydice is an incarnation of Hecate (Queen of the Night and Underworld also identified as Persephone), and as such a snake goddess, or associated with a snake cult. Orphism was the Greek's version of mystical religion. It differed from the Olympiad in that it allowed an adherent to experience redemption for a life of virtue. The Orphic Afterworld was a place like the Elysian Fields – blessed and beautiful. Initiates of Orphism could take up a "life" of satisfaction, doing work and play - it was the promise of a better eternity. This is the context for Orpheus the shaman, the poet/artist. This earliest Orpheus is powerful and can easily make the transition between the world of the living and the next world. Orpheus the consummate musician descends to Hades and is welcomed by the realm's Queen. His ability to return to the world of the living is unquestioned.

By Virgil's and Ovid's later Roman retellings of the story, the snake cult (of the Underworld Goddess) is associated with Dionysus, the God of wine, fertility, theater and emotional excess. Both Ovid and Virgil depict the great artist/shaman, Orpheus, failing to bring his bride, Eurydice, back from the land of death to the living. After this failure, in both renditions, Maenads (the maidens of Bacchus who as part of their religious practice become frenzied) beset him, tear him to pieces and cast his still-singing head into the river.

Virgil invented the romantic tragedy with his telling of the story. Eurydice, the young bride of Orpheus is bitten by a snake and dies on her wedding day. Orpheus the lover descends to Hades and plays his music to lull Cerberus the three-headed guard dog into allowing a living soul to pass into the realms of hell. Once there, Orpheus exerts his musical and poetical skill on the King and Queen of the realm. They grant him his wish to return his bride to life with one teeny-tiny condition (beware the fairy-tale agreement!): he must not look back until they safely ascend to the upper world. Naturally before they both exit Orpheus forgets the admonition and as he steps into the world of the living he turns and by his look casts his loved one back into Hades. In Cocteau's famous movie, Orphee, he is able to bring her back to life, but they can't look at each other. This is so distasteful to Eurydice she arranges to have him see her in a mirror so she may return to the land of the dead. Following this, the filmmaker brings back the Bacchantes to finish Orpheus off. Another writer that allows us to understand things from Eurydice's point of view is the playwright Sarah Ruhl. Her recent play, Eurydice, staged in 2007 in NYC imagines a "life" of sorts in the Underworld. In this version the lovers also part.

Interestingly, I was pleased to note, as an avid reader of the Harry Potter series, the unmistakable parallels with the Orpheus myth evinced in The Deathly Hollows . Rowling's entire series reinvigorates many of western culture's favorite touchstones for the contemporary audience.

The Orphic tale extends deep into the history of opera and the Glimmerglass Opera festival again took up the Orpheus theme in summer 2007. The first opera ever made was Peri's Eurydice. The festival presented Monteverde's, L'Orfeo (1607) which was composed hard on the heels of Peri's work, and due to some inspired new ideas about music is considered the first great work of opera. In these two early operas, Orpheus successfully persuades the powers of death and like his very earliest taletellers maintain, he "gets the girl" or at least gets her back to become a star in the heavens. The festival also presented other composers, Gluck, and Offenbach, addressing the theme but framing it by the more familiar tale of Ovid. (Ovid, an iconoclast, slyly cuts the poet Orpheus down a notch from Virgil's adulation.) His artist/shaman can venture to the Underworld, make a deal with the Powers, but he may only look at his lady when they have exited Hades. As before, Orpheus gains the living land, but as he looks behind, the lagging Eurydice has not. She fades away, farewells are exchanged and Orpheus' love is unrequited. More recently, Philip Glass, in his 20th C opera, is engaged with the Cocteau film version.

Continuing our discovery of the intertwining of symbol and story let's consider the Crone. My large bent figure with her snake staff and owl references the evil witches of fairy tales; Shakespeare's Macbeth; the Neolithic Triple Goddess; as well as Hecate, Queen of Night and Medusa, who is the destroyer aspect of the Goddess Athena. Athena is the Warrior Goddess as well as the Goddess of Wisdom (symbol the owl). The female warrior of medieval times, Joan of Arc, was eventually burned at the stake for heresy -- the worst of her crimes being to dress in man's armor and act as a man. Mark Twain and George Bernard Shaw as well as moviemakers have found the story of the Little Maid worth telling. My Joan image conflates the monstrous Medusa and heroic Athena to suggest differing facets of the tale.

For more snake imagery: the wine god, Dionysus' iconography features snakes and he is often shown with one in his hair or as a belt. Dionysus holds sway over nature and emotion. I like the complexity of Dionysus (a.k.a. Bacchus). He is vengeful, playful, tender or regal. The famous Athenian festival held in his honor each year featured playwriting contests. This lasted over several days. The Players wore masks, allowing a small cast to present the dramas. The writers adapted and portrayed the ancient stories, making them fresh for their Athenian audience. We owe our dramatic traditions in the West to this ancient yearly festival.

The Maenads are the followers of Bacchus (Dionysus). Their ecstasy is stimulated by wine and religious fervor. Euripides' play the Bacchantes, is a chilling tale of Bacchus' revenge on those who do not do him honor. The sniveling, scoffing royal scion of Thebes is torn to pieces by "high as a kite" worshippers. The tragedy of the play is evident as we witness Pentheus' own Mother bearing his head triumphantly into the city of Thebes, crowing victory over the "wild boar" she has killed.

The wildness of Bacchus circles back around again to the Beast/human, the Minotaur. My large figurine is elegantly attired but no amount of tailoring can hide his essential self. Holding a human facemask is a poor disguise. The King Must Die by writer Mary Renault retells the classic Minotaur myth, combining intuition and archeology.

In another beast/man envisioning, Nathanial Hawthorne's Marble Faun revolves around a group of hip artistes in Rome and their adopted mascot, who is the spitting image of a woodland sprite. Hawthorne investigates in this and many of his works the beast within.

My film trilogy, The Passion of Orpheus & Eurydice: It' s All About Orfee, Orf Loves DeeCee, and The Revenge of the Snake Maidens 2008, tries out several outcomes for the Orpheus story. I anachronistically contextualize the characters into an urban wild rather than a natural habitat. Like the Greek dramatists in worship of Dionysus, I am trying to tell the story anew.

It is my hope that via this exhibition, one of these stories of death and renewal will touch you. Please feel free to create a response by image or writing on the Drawing Board. Myth is the story we tell ourselves. It defines us as a culture. It is always changing to meet new needs. The new retellings change us yet again and our new narration is the edge of our becoming.


B. Lynch, has been working with the topic of folly for the last Seventeen years. Her theatrical installations of the Folly pantheon have been shown at many solo exhibitions in New England. Lynch has been combining digital and other media for several years, presenting "Tragical, Comical"... an installation with video and a site-specific labyrinth at the Grimshaw-Gudewicz Gallery in Fall River MA in 2008. She presented a mixed media and video installation, Truth & Folly at UMass Amherst November 2004. Chain of Fools: Hogarth Reinterpreted by B. Lynch, a mixed media and video installation at University of New Hampshire. January 2006 her project Just a Pack of Cards, with the Open Studio Program was on view at the Currier Museum in Manchester NH. At the Children's Museum her site-specific installation - Folly Roger & the Sunken Treasure is on long term loan. Other shows of note are: the Throne Project 2003, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Fool's Progress, Eastern CT State University;The Game of Folly, The Art Complex Museum; and Plucked Fruit, Montserrat College of Art. Lynch has shown extensively in group shows including The Chicken Show at the Boston Center for the Arts; as well as shows in Germany and the Midwest.

California, Texas and Alaska have played host to her videos and sound projects in 2011 and 2010. Video projects were screened at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburg, University of California Chico State, Lexington Art League among others. The Artist Foundation, Boston, premiered her solo video project: The Lunar Cycle 1 in November 2009. Gabi Green Gallery in Munich Germany premiered two videos in Fall 2009. Miss Kittikins... is included in Creatures Great & Small, a show originating at Murray State College in Kentucky, it has a catalog and traveled to Paducah and Lexington Ky. Lynch has recently screened at The Music Hall in Portsmouth NH and Mobius Gallery in Boston. Miss Kittikins Disapears! was chosen for the le:60, The Lumen Eclipse 1 minute video festival, Harvard Square in Cambridge. The video: Road Show screened at the 8th annual NH Film Festival in Portsmouth.

For more information see:The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts awarded her a fellowship in 2008. She has won several awards for her projects, including a Puffin Grant and Ludwig Vogelstein award. She is a co-founder of the Hall Street Artist Collaborative, which produced two outdoor video screenings. Her bibliography includes reviews in Sculpture Magazine, ART New England, the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the Patriot Ledge, the Wire and others, as well as several exhibition catalogues, and two cable TV presentations. She is included in the Springfield Ohio Museum of Art; The Boston Public Library, Boston; the Art Complex Museum, Duxbury, MA; Eastern Connecticut State University Collection; University of NH Art Museum; Private collections in the USA, Germany and Sweden.

As a teacher she has wide experience. Currently she is on the art faculty of Simmons College, Boston and Interim Director of the Trustman Art Gallery at Simmons College. As part of a Colloquium funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities she lectured and displayed work at Hood College in Maryland, 2004. Her popular lectures on the topic of Folly and art have been given at many universitiesand colleges, most recently at Art Break, the UNH Art Gallery lecture series and the University Hour lecture at E.CT State University. She studied Japanese traditional theatre in Kyoto Japan. Lynch received her training at the Museum School in Boston, a BA from Kansas University and MFA from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University.

Critics say of her work: "Lynch has inspiration and intellect to spare. Her installation embraces the illogic of chance, double dealing, and rule breaking that too often define our lives. Her work also includes the overt nod to Dada and recalls Duchamp's passion for chess." -- John Stomberg ART New England. "All is Folly succeeds in creating a kind of carnival of paintings - riotous and debauched, and altogether worthwhile." -- Cate McQuaid The Boston Globe.