|Sphinx Tapestry (Addendum), 2021, hand-stitched cotton thread embroidery floss on linen, 25" x 16"|
"Functional mythology has been replaced by inadequate ideology." - Jordan Peterson
This is another piece that contemporizes an ancient Greek myth. The sphinx is made up of bomb shapes, and the wing is made up of thermometers. I stitched the background using water drop shapes, and it contains four symbols that surround the figure. Two of them denote a sense of urgency (the hourglass and the bell), and two of them point to our lowest and highest potential as humans (the saw and the circle). The saw refers to this quote from the Stanford ecologist Paul Ehrlich: "In pushing other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it perches." It's placed low under the Sphinx figure, in contrast to the circle at the top. The circle here is more complex and has layered meanings. On a mundane level, it represents the sun that's warming the planet. On a profound level, it symbolizes our transcendent wholeness, the one consciousness that we are all a part of. The idea of universality is embedded in this piece and is the antithesis of the current divisive mind virus that's been infecting much of Western culture.
A story about the Sphinx by the 8th Cent B.C. writer Hesiod is told in the book Symbols And Legends In Western Art by E.S. Whittlesey: (The Sphinx) frequented a high rock near Thebes and waylaid travelers with the riddle, "What walks on four legs in the morning, on two at noon, and on three in the evening?" The answer is "Man"-in infancy, prime of life, and old age. Those who failed to give the correct answer were hurled to their deaths from the rock. I imagine us now collectively on a precipice with a riddle in front of us. The 'Addendum' of the title points to the idea that we need new questions: what does it mean to be human, and who are we really? The Sphinx sits on a coffin decorated with stylized hemlock. A passage about Socrates is on the opposite page in the same book: (he) was allegedly condemned to death for corrupting the youth and for impiety. The latter charge was for his belief in the immortality of the soul. Although I didn't know what he was killed for when I chose hemlock as a symbol, the story connects beautifully to my addendum question. Socrates spoke 'truth in the face of danger', an idea known as 'parrhesia' in Greek. It seems like a necessary, even urgent, imperative for our times.