Orion and Studiolo

5.5”w x 7”h x 2.5”d,
 plastic, silver plated brass, glass, silver alloy, aluminum wire, copper wire, steel wire, acrylic paint, archival mat board, wood


As ancient cultures watched the stars in the night sky, they detected patterns and noted cycles in their movement across the heavens. These patterns eventually became codified into recognizable constellations, and the cycles were found to repeat with the seasons. In Mediterranean countries, the constellations and their  movements became associated with the mythology of their gods and heroes.

One of the most prominent constellations of the night sky came to be called Orion, after the heroic hunter. Visible in the northern hemisphere from late fall to early spring, Orion rises above the horizon to claim his place in the heavens with his shining belt and raised sword (some see a club) ready for the hunt.

Legend has it that Orion was conceived when childless king Hyrieus entertained the gods Zeus, Poseidon and Hermes with the roasting of a bull. When the gods asked how to reward the king for his hospitality, Hyrieus asked the gods for a son. To oblige, the three gods urinated (some sources say ejaculated) on the bulls hide and instructed the king to bury it in the earth for 10 months. When the hide was exhumed at the end of the stated time, the king found a baby boy. He was named Orion, which has the double meaning of “urine” or “from the earth,” both transliterations alluding to his conception.

Orion grew to be a giant whose prowess was his hunting skills. From Poseidon, one of his sires, he inherited the ability to walk on water. He became huntsman for King Oinopion, but became enamored of the king’s daughter, who did not return his advances. In his uncontrollable ardor, Orion raped the king’s daughter and as punishment, Oinopion had Orion blinded and banished. Orion walked across the ocean to the island of Lemnos the home of the god Hephaistos, to petition him to restore his sight. Hephaistos lent Orion his son Kedalion (the purifier) to guide him to the East, the dwelling place of Helios, god of the sun. Helios would heal Orion and restore his sight. It is interesting to note that Hephaistos is the god of metalworking and sculpture and the meaning of this story seems to be that enlightenment from low behavior is achieved through the sincere (pure = Kedalion) application of the arts.

Unfortunately, Orion was not enlightened when his sight was restored. He sought revenge on King Oinopion for blinding him, but the king escaped. Orion then went into the service of Artemis, goddess of the hunt, wild animals and associated with the crescent moon. (Note that Orion after his blindness, now hunts by night with Artemis, another allusion to his lack of enlightenment.) Orion at this point began boasting that he could kill all of the animals on earth. This boast was heard by Gaia (Mother Earth) who could not abide this threat and sent a scorpion that stung Orion and killed him. Artemis convinced Zeus to place Orion in the night sky along with the scorpion that killed him, but on opposite sides. So, as Orion rises above the horizon each winter, Scorpio descends. From season to season, their deadly fight rises and falls in the sky for eternity.

Because of my nearsightedness, I did not see many stars at night.  The sky was a blackness interrupted with only a fuzzy moon and a few bright points of light. I became interested in astronomy as a concept, but in practical terms, I could not be a participant. There were only 2 constellations that I could recognize as a child: the Big Dipper and Orion. Because of my limited vision, I became more interested in the theoretical and mythological aspects of space. Still, Orion became a touchstone, because he was a way in for me to understand the stars. As I read deeper into astronomy and its intersection with mythology, I was attracted to the art created around it. Constellation globes and maps where the figures of the gods were imposed upon the map of the stars I found particularly attractive. From the simple line connectors of the stars, to the detailed figurative compositions, the night sky took on a new life and reality that fueled my imagination. As astronomical imagery has become the symbolic shorthand for magic and mystery, I found this becoming part of my art investigations as well. 

The vision of the early stargazers inspired my Orion. They looked at the immense complexity of a night sky centuries ago and discerned patterns that corresponded to human stories and created stories to explain what the stars were telling them. Their epics of the gods were acted out in the movement of the stars while they gazed to the heavens at night. Even now, we are secure knowing that in the vastness of the universe, the gods continue to show themselves to us on earth.


8"h x 4.75"w x 2.5"d
sandstone, rubber, pot metal, white metal chain, copper wire, steel nails, wood, acrylic paint

Studiolo distills down to three iconic objects the search for knowledge and evidence of the hand of god on earth. Geological, natural and human histories were being cataloged in what later became known as cabinets of curiosities.

Orion and Studiolo were exhibited in Psychopomp at Curious Matter, September 26 - October 31, 2010.

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