Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Remember Harpy

For our final project in Sculpture, we were given a carving assignment. 
Carving is quite the undertaking: you have to wrap your brain around the restriction of using only subtractive measures because once you chisel a chunk away, you cannot put it back.
For Remember Harpy, I wanted a visual reminder to myself of what I can be at my darkest.
As a woman, I can choose to be a swan, a songbird, or a harpy.
Swan: captivating, elegant, and vain.
Songbird: lovely and adding something beautiful to the world.
Or harpy.
There is a long piece of history about the harpy:
In Greek mythology, the three harpies, or furies, were bird-women who were sent to torture and carry victims to Tartarus. 
Some sources say harpies originated as beautiful women who were warped into beasts.   
Since their appearance in mythology, they have cropped up in artwork in a variety of forms: sometimes beautiful, sometimes disfigured, and always evil.
They appeared again in Dante's Alighieri's Inferno in the forest of punishment for self-murderes.  
Suicides were encased in trees and harpies ate their leaves.    
The word "harpy" as an adjective is used by the character Benedick regarding the lady Beatrice in Shakespeare's play, Much Ado About Nothing.
He begs the prince to give him any range of unpleasant tasks to complete rather than "hold three word's conference with this harpy."

Where since I think it has evolved to its current conotation: a cold, shrewish, nagging woman.
Synonyms for harpy on include:
battle axe, dragon lady, shrew, gorgon, carper, critic, fault-finder, nitpicker, scold, and belittler. 
This harpy is a vice I have been battling intentionally this year.
She always resided in my breast, only unfurling her wings in my most extreme moments of selfishness and indignation, as poor Cam recoiled from my talons.  
Women, consider: how often do you nag?
How often do you consider yourself mistreated, abused, or unloved?
How often do you expect others to interpret your roiling emotions and fickle intentions?
How often do you give yourself the benefit of the doubt, but do not extend this simple courtesy to others?  
I am speaking from hindsight, here.  
I have bested harpy many times over the past year.
You see, when her wings unfurl, I can sense her coming.
When I feel irrationally angry, misused, or unappreciated, I know she is on the way.
So I fight her with gratitude, prayers for understanding, and the simple words: 
"My feelings are selfish and illogical right now."
In my sculpture I wanted to depict a woman skeletal, yet beautiful.  
Her muscles are pulled taut, forcing themselves into wings, leaving her powerless.  
As women, sometimes we hate our voices as we dispel acid on our victims--we feel helpless as we hear out mother's nagging coming from our own lips, and yet we plow on to make ourselves feel justified.
Harpy is a ship headed for destruction, imprisoned by her own vices, and she looks on in horror with gaping maw.  

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