"Prometheus Unbound" 2012-13
Oil on Canvas
Prometheus Unbound is in response to Paul Rubens' "Prometheus Bound", which hangs in the Renaissance Wing of the Philadelphia Museum. As a youth, I spent many weekends captivated by this piece for hours at a time. I didn't know much about the story of Prometheus at the time. It wasn't until I visited on a class trip that I had learned the tale of Prometheus. The teacher that gave the tour was a Symbolist painter. His passionate explanation of the piece greatly broadened my perception of the work. I discovered that there was a wealth of information hidden in plain sight waiting to be explored. The great works hanging on the wall were no longer flat, pretty pictures. They were alive with stories to tell and mysteries to reveal.
"Prometheus Bound" 1611-12
Oil on Canvas
In my response, it was very important to preserve the drama between Prometheus and the Eagle. The Eagle symbolizing the omnipotence and omnipresence of God from which man cannot escape. In Rubens' depiction Prometheus is bound in chains to the rock. My intention was to liberate Prometheus. I also chose to allow Prometheus to retain the torch. The correspondence between God and Man, Heaven and Earth are exemplified by Prometheus' act of giving fire (the light of knowledge) to man. It is the light of the unseen that shines within all of us. The light that gave birth to ingenuity and ultimately technology. As time has progressed, so has Man's knowledge. The myth of Prometheus brings into consideration many myths of the past from a variety of cultures and religions. From Adam and Eve to the Fallen Angels, to God dispersing of the children of Earth from Tower of Babel. The last reference is noteworthy in that, examining the progress of man and his technological achievements, the access to information, and the diminishing of language barriers, we've almost come full circle.
Here's an excerpt from Genesis to consider:
God came down to see what they did and said: "They are one people and have one language, and nothing will be withheld from them which they purpose to do." "Come, let us go down and confound their speech." And so God scattered them upon the face of the Earth, and confused their languages, so that they would not be able to return to each other, and they left off building the city, which was called Babel "because God there confounded the language of all the Earth".
The most significant line of this passage is, "nothing will be withheld from them which they purpose to do". Is this not the world we live in today? A world where scientist from around the globe collaborate regardless of language differences in a variety of scientific and technological endeavors. In many cases these advancements reveal disastrous consequences, not only impacting the environment and it's animal inhabitants, but human life as well. It's often unclear weather the benefits outweigh the risk of our advancements, yet we persist as if we must fulfill some page in a book of things that must be done.
It's very interesting to see how our present is reflected in myths of the past. Myths are not necessarily true, but there may be truth in them that is more allegorical in nature. What I find engaging is the common threads in myths from different cultures. It shows the persistence of stories over long periods of time and connects our present to a distant global village of the past. The myth of Prometheus has inspired me through the years and embodies a tale of the origin of human knowledge. It also shows the continuation of mans persistent will to evolve and reinvent himself despite all odds. It will be very exciting to see what the future will unfold.
Norm "Nomzee" Maxwell