9 1/2” x 8 1/2” x 4” - porcelain, gold plated copper, plastic, stainless steel, glass beads,
air drying clay, archival mat board, steel wire, wood, acrylic paint, glass
The Greeks found Endymion in Turkey. The Anatolian Turks worshiped a masculine moon god they called Men. Men was a chthonian deity, spending his days in the Underworld, while at night he would rise to cross the black sky, causing terror and madness among the people. Endymion was a shepherd who spent a lot of time studying Men, as the god transformed fromå a horned demon to a round faced guide. Endymion was especially curious where Men went during the day and on those three nights a month åwhen he was absent from the sky when the perils of the night were at their most dangerous.
The ancient Greeks had heard the Anatolian stories about Men and Endymion from their trading and travels, but for them, the moon was the goddess Selene. Her waxing and waning nature was associated with the monthly cycles of mortal women. When they retold the story of Endymion, his interest in the moon became a mortal man’s infatuation with a beautiful goddess. Selene took notice of the young shepherd’s ardor and finding him handsome and strong, fell in love. She began spending a lot of time with the young Endymion. So much time in fact, that the other gods noticed she was often late or absent from her lunar duties. Finally, Selene’s erratic execution of her job became so severe that Zeus, chief among the gods, had to find out what was the problem. Selene confessed to her dalliance with Endymion. Zeus, in his wisdom, lay the blame on Endymion, since the moon cannot be faulted for her very nature and sentenced the young shepherd to death for interfering in the workings of the universe. But Selene’s pleading and grief was so great that Zeus relented and offered an alternative; Endymion could live, but he would sleep forever. Endymion sleeps in his cave high atop Mt. Latmus, eternally young, while bright faced Selene watches over him from her place in the heavens – and she still steals away now and then to lie with and tend to her love.
The ancient Greeks noticed a marked difference between the behavior of the sun and the moon. Both rode across the arc of the heavens, but Helios (the sun) brought day to the earth with regularity and stoic consistency. His sister Selene seemed flighty and inconsistent. It was clear that she was supposed to ride her silver, bull drawn chariot across the night sky as Helios drove his golden, horse drawn chariot during the day, but Selene did not show the regularity that Helios did. She was often late to her post. Sometimes she hadn’t completed her crossing when Helios began his. She would be absent for days, leaving the night sky black and then only gradually return to her work. What was it that kept the moon from being as reliable as the sun the people wondered? There had to be something or someone that was distracting her from her heavenly tasks. Since the ancient Greeks envisioned their gods as immortal and supernatural beings with human traits, they knew that when a single woman was dreamy and not concentrating on her chores, there was usually a man involved. So it was with Selene. Endymion (he who dives in) becomes her lover and that state of physical presence but mental absence will forever be called moonstruck.
As man became more sophisticated in the study of astronomy, the orbit of the moon became understood as a constant. We can calculate the moons position with accuracy, determine the exact dates of the phases and predict to the second when there will be an eclipse. But with the knowledge that the moon is a lifeless rock with a predictable orbit, so goes her reckless personality as Selene, the goddess whose shining face brought Endymion to his eternal rest.
Selene was part of the exhibition, Dividing Light Measuring Darkness
at Curious Matter, October 1 - November 6, 2011