Medusa with the Head of Perseus
With the amount of pornographic material available to you, Audrey (I’m just going to call you Audrey), why use up any of the internet’s finite space on anything solid? After all, part of porn’s appeal is the ephemerality of its images, people, and financial stability.
But the viral reappearance, after a dozen years, of Luciano Garbati’s Medusa, a six-and-a-half-foot revision of Greek mythology (in the original story, Perseus got her head), you can’t help thinking, what with her badassery, that that is one hot statue.
The original story is grim. Medusa is either seduced or raped by Poseidon in the temple of Athena. Jealous Athena, Poseidon’s competitor, transformed Medusa, who in some tellings was already a subdeity herself, a Gorgon, and in others, a beautiful maiden, into a snake-maned monstrosity whose glance could turn to stone anyone who glanced back.
Later, the mortal Perseus, in order to score points, is assisted by the gods in beheading Medusa so that her head could be used to thwart enemies.
Side note: In her decapitation, Medusa births Pegasus. Those Greeks, I tell you.
In 2008, an Argentine artist living in Buenos Aires, Luciano Garbati, cast his Medusa in clay, and later in resin. The statue appeared in only one show, despite Garbati’s international reputation with other works, and languished in his studio. But images of it existed on social media and, in 2019 during the throes of the #MeToo Movement, Garbati’s Medusa, with her “We’re done here” stare, was easily recast as an icon for the movement.
But I cannot help but wonder: Who is the model for Medusa and why does she not have snakes—or at least worms—for pubes? Why is a pre-1990s lady shaved down there? Why must I be the one, like the guy in the Progressive Insurance ad, to say, “We all see it,” but refrain from comment?
And who says revisionist mythology can’t be progressive and sexy at the same time? Not me. Maybe part of the revisionism that sculptor Garbati is also trying to achieve is the ancients’ repressive need for pubes.
Kópakonan: The Seal Wife
Another tale of a Beautiful Woman Wronged by Some Dude is that of Kópakonan: The Seal Wife. This 9-ft. bronze and stainless steel statue stands in Mikladalur in the Faroe Islands, and independent nation within the Kingdom of Denmark.
Lots of seafaring nations have stories of sea-women, whether they are mermaids, or sirens, or selkies. Kópakonan was a selkie, a former human who turned into a seal and then, at a special time each year, shed her seal skin on the beach for one night of human revelry with her seal buddies. On this particular night, though, a fisherman of Mikladalur stole her skin and locked it away. Kópakonan, trapped, was bound to him and became his wife, giving him several children.
One day, however, the fisherman was off at sea when he remembered that he’d left the key to the trunk in which he kept her skin at home. Sure enough, Kópakonan grabbed her skin, abandoned their children, and escaped.
Why hadn’t the fisherman just thrown out the skin rather than locked it up? How big would that house have been? Surely someone would have noticed the smell of a seal skin coming from the attic. This is where the expression “There’s something rotten in the state of Denmark” comes from*.
One night Kópakonan appears to her former human husband in a dream. He’s going on a seal hunt the next day, and Kópakonan begs him not to kill her bull seal husband and their two flippered kids. The fisherman and his pals go off the next day and do just the opposite. Kópakonan returns in a rage and curses the island, saying that the curse will end only when enough men have died so that they can ring the island, holding hands.
Another great story, but it bears repeating: I like the modern pube trend in hot statues.
The Lactating Sea-Nymphs of Bologna
I guess you had to be there, but I never understood how works that were clearly erotic were commissioned for religious entities.
Here’s a sea-nymph, or nereid, adorning the Piazza del Nettuno. The plaza was created for the ascension of Pope Pius IV in the mid-1500s and commissioned by his nephew, the archbishop Charles Borromeo (there is a Charles Borromeo church here in North Hollywood, across from the old Odyssey Video, which also sold pornography).
As humans we have many temptations, each weaving around one Deadly Sin or another, but one of our virtues is to look the other way and recognize that there is a time and a place for everything. Thus, when we encounter a woman breastfeeding a child at a mall, we say, “I am not to sexualize this woman,” but instead continue trying to sell her a cellphone case.
But this nereid makes it difficult because there’s no object of her lactation. She’s just spread-eagled there, squeezing her own breasts like every porn star that has ever been while, above her, Neptune (the Roman version of Poseidon), is all like, “Why was a statue of me commissioned for a Catholic?”
But maybe it’s not too weird. I hear Donald Trump’s official portrait will have him wrapped in a Confederate flag wearing a Daisy Duke t-shirt while tossing a trident at an abortion doctor.
The Riesen-Nixe of Hamburg
Once again we return to the water for our public art pleasure. This 3-piece (two knees and a head) sculpture floated in Hamburg’s Alster Lake for ten days in 2011. I love public art like this, which can liven up business centers and capitals with whimsical conversation pieces.
Also, I like that the bathing beauty’s knees are edged slightly inward and she appears to be looking at what’s going on below. Alas, there weren’t wonders to behold beneath the surface at low tide.
The Pubeless Aphrodite of Glendale
Eris, goddess of Discord, angered that she wasn’t invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, in her rage tossed an apple marked “to the fairest” into the reception, at which point the apple was claimed by Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena. The shepherd Paris was asked to judge who of the three was fairest, and Aphrodite won. In turn, Aphrodite granted Paris with Helen of Troy, whose face would launch a thousand ships.
I don’t know when in the mythology this occurred—before or after jealous Athena punished Medusa—but I’m sure Athena didn’t like losing out to Aphrodite.
This sculpture stands high above the exotic city of Glendale, CA, overlooking the Verdugo hills. Perhaps, Jame Gumb-like, Aphrodite is tucking her vulva in order to not shock visitors to Michael Jackson’s crypt at Forest Lawn, or maybe she was just born without one. Either way: Also no pubes.
*No it isn’t.