Monday, December 31, 2012

Senior Thesis: Chimera: The Heroines of Grimm: The Twelve Brothers/ The Six Swans

When I started thinking about my senior art pieces, I wanted them to be a tribute to storytelling as well as illustrating that I was majoring in both 2D and 3D art.  But as I spoke with my advisor and the projects progressed, I also wanted to use them to bring awareness to women's issues in America in 2012 by using steampunk as a bridge between the Victorian era the stories were originally tailored for and our modern era. I was also encouraged to 'put my fingerprint on them', and so I incorporated my love of signs and symbols.

Although these are some of my favorite tales from when I was a child growing up, it turns out that most people have never heard of them.  It helps to know the tales before seeing the art work (though you can always just skip past all of the words and dive right into the art, if you wish).

The Original Grimm's Tales:

The Twelve Brothers
by Jacob Ludwig Grimm and Wilhelm Carl Grimm

Once upon a time there were a king and a queen. They lived happily together and had twelve children, all boys. One day the king said to his wife, "If our thirteenth child, which you are soon going to bring into the world, is a girl, then the twelve others shall die, so that her wealth may be great, and so that she alone may inherit the kingdom."
Indeed, he had twelve coffins made. They were filled with wood shavings and each was fitted with a coffin pillow. He had them put in a locked room, and gave the key to the queen, ordering her to tell no one about them.
The mother sat and mourned the entire day, until the youngest son -- who was always with her, and who was named Benjamin after the Bible -- said to her, "Dear mother, why are you so sad?"
"Dearest child," she answered, "I cannot tell you."
However, he would not leave her in peace, until she unlocked the room and showed him the coffins, already filled with wood shavings.
Then she said, "My dearest Benjamin, your father had these coffins made for you and your eleven brothers. If I bring a girl into the world, you are all to be killed and buried in them."
As she spoke and cried, her son comforted her, saying, "Don't cry, dear mother. We will take care of ourselves and run away."
Then she said, "Go out into the woods with your eleven brothers. One of you should climb the highest tree that you can find. Keep watch there and look toward the castle tower. If I give birth to a little son, I will raise a white flag. If I give birth to a little daughter, I will raise a red flag, and then you should escape as fast as you can, and may God protect you. I will get up every night and pray for you, in the winter that you may warm yourselves near a fire, and in the summer that you may not suffer from the heat."
After she had blessed her children, they went out into the woods. One after the other of them kept watch, sitting atop the highest oak tree and looking toward the tower. After eleven days had passed, and it was Benjamin's turn, he saw that a flag had been raised. It was not the white one, but instead the red blood-flag, decreeing that they all were to die.
When the boys heard this they became angry and cried out, "Are we to suffer death for the sake of a girl! We swear that we will take revenge. Wherever we find a girl, her red blood shall flow."
Then they went deeper into the woods, and in its middle, where it was darkest, they found a little bewitched house that was empty.
They said, "We will live here. You, Benjamin, you are the youngest and weakest. You shall stay at home and keep house. We others will go and get things to eat."
Thus they went into the woods and shot rabbits, wild deer, birds, and doves, and whatever they could eat. These they brought to Benjamin, and he had to prepare them to satisfy their hunger. They lived together in this little house for ten years, but the time passed quickly for them.
The little daughter that their mother, the queen, had given birth to was now grown up. She had a good heart, a beautiful face, and a golden star on her forehead.
Once on a large washday she saw twelve men's shirts in the laundry and asked her mother, "Whose are these twelve shirts? They are much too small for father."
The queen answered with a heavy heart, "Dear child, they belong to your twelve brothers."
The girl said, "Where are my twelve brothers? I have never even heard of them."
She answered, "Only God knows where they are. They are wandering about in the world."
Then she took the girl, unlocked the room for her, and showed her the twelve coffins with the wood shavings and the coffin pillows.
"These coffins," she said, "were intended for your brothers, but they secretly ran away before you were born," and she told her how everything had happened.
Then the girl said, "Dear mother, don't cry. I will go and look for my brothers."
Then she took the twelve shirts and went forth into the great woods. She walked the entire day, in the evening coming to the bewitched little house.
She went inside and found a young lad, who asked, "Where do you come from, and where are you going?"
He was astounded that she was so beautiful, that she was wearing royal clothing, and that she had a star on her forehead.
"I am a princess and am looking for my twelve brothers. I will walk on as long as the sky is blue, until I find them." She also showed him the twelve shirts that belonged to them.
Benjamin saw that it was his sister, and said, "I am Benjamin, your youngest brother."
She began to cry for joy, and Benjamin did so as well. They kissed and embraced one another with great love.
Then he said, "Dear sister, I must warn you that we have agreed that every girl whom we meet must die."
She said, "I will gladly die, if I can thus redeem my twelve brothers."
"No," he answered, "you shall not die. Sit under this tub until our eleven brothers come, and I will make it right with them."
She did this, and when night fell they came home from the hunt. As they sat at the table eating, they asked, "What is new?"
Benjamin said, "Don't you know anything?"
"No," they answered.
He continued speaking, "You have been in the woods while I stayed at home, but I know more than you do."
"Then tell us," they shouted.
He answered, "If you will promise me that the next girl we meet shall not be killed."
"Yes," they all shouted. "We will show her mercy. Just tell us."
Then he said, "Our sister is here," and lifted up the tub. The princess came forth in her royal clothing and with the golden star on her forehead, so beautiful, delicate, and fine.
They all rejoiced, falling around her neck and kissing her, and they loved her with all their hearts.
Now she stayed at home with Benjamin and helped him with the work. The eleven went into the woods and captured wild game, deer, birds, and doves, so they would have something to eat. Their sister and Benjamin prepared it all. They gathered wood for cooking, herbs for the stew, and put the pot onto the fire so a meal was always ready when the eleven came home. She also kept the house in order, and made up the beds white and clean. The brothers were always satisfied, and they lived happily with her.
One time the two of them had prepared a good meal at home, and so they sat together and ate and drank and were ever so happy. Now there was a little garden next to the bewitched house, and in it there were twelve lilies, the kind that are called "students." Wanting to bring some pleasure to her brothers, she picked the twelve flowers, intending to give one to each of them when they were eating. But in the same instant that she picked the flowers, the twelve brothers were transformed into twelve ravens, and they flew away above the woods. The house and the garden disappeared as well.
Now the poor girl was alone in the wild woods. Looking around, she saw an old women standing next to her.
The old woman said, "My child, what have you done?" Why did you not leave the twelve white flowers standing? Those were your brothers, and now they have been transformed into ravens forever."
The girl said, crying, "Is there no way to redeem them?"
"No," said the old woman, "There is only one way in the world, and it is so difficult that you will never redeem them. You must remain silent for seven whole years, neither speaking nor laughing. If you speak a single word, even if all but one hour of the seven years has passed, then it will all be for nothing, and your brothers will be killed by that one word."
Then the girl said in her heart, "I know for sure that I will redeem my brothers."
She went and found a tall tree and climbed to its top, where she sat and span, without speaking and without laughing.
Now it came to pass that a king was hunting in these woods. He had a large greyhound that ran to the tree where the girl was sitting. It jumped about, yelping and barking up the tree. The king came, saw the beautiful princess with the golden star on her forehead, and was so enchanted by her beauty that he shouted up to her, asking her to become his wife. She gave him no answer, but nodded with her head. Then he himself climbed the tree, carried her down, set her on his horse, and took her home with him.
Their wedding was celebrated with great pomp and joy, but the bride neither spoke nor laughed.
After they had lived a few years happily together, the king's mother, who was a wicked woman, began to slander the young queen, saying to the king, "You have brought home a common beggar woman for yourself. Who knows what kind of godless things she is secretly doing. Even if she is a mute and cannot speak, she could at least laugh. Anyone who does not laugh has an evil conscience."
At first the king did not want to believe this, but the old woman kept it up so long, accusing her of so many wicked things, that the king finally let himself be convinced, and he sentenced her to death.
A great fire was lit in the courtyard, where she was to be burned to death. The king stood upstairs at his window, looking on with crying eyes, for he still loved her dearly. She had already been bound to the stake, and the fire was licking at her clothing with its red tongues, when the last moment of the seven years passed.
A whirring sound was heard in the air, and twelve ravens approached, landing together. As they touched the earth, it was her twelve brothers, whom she had redeemed. They ripped the fire apart, put out the flames, and freed their sister, kissing and embracing her.
Now that she could open her mouth and speak, she told the king why she had remained silent and had never laughed.
The king rejoiced to hear that she was innocent, and they all lived happily together until they died. The wicked stepmother was brought before the court and placed in a barrel filled with boiling oil and poisonous snakes, and she died an evil death.

The Six Swans
byJacob Ludwig Grimm and Wilhelm Carl Grimm

A King was once hunting in a large wood, and pursued his game so hotly that none of his courtiers could follow him. But when evening approached he stopped, and looking around him perceived that he had lost himself. He sought a path out of the forest but could not find one, and presently he saw an old woman, with a nodding head, who came up to him. "My good woman," said he to her, "can you not show me the way out of the forest?" "Oh, yes, my lord King," she replied; "I can do that very well, but upon one condition, which if you do not fulfill, you will never again get out of the wood, but will die of hunger."
"What, then, is this condition?" asked the King.
"I have a daughter," said the old woman, "who is as beautiful as any one you can find in die whole world, and well deserves to be your bride. Now, if you will make her your Queen, I will show you your way out of the wood." In the anxiety of his heart, the King consented, and the old woman led him to her cottage, where the daughter was sitting by the fire. She received the King as if she had expected him, and he saw at once that she was very beautiful, but yet she did not quite please him, for he could not look at her without a secret shuddering. However, he took the maiden upon his horse, and the old woman showed him the way, and the King arrived safely at his palace, where the wedding was to be celebrated.
The King had been married once before, and had seven children by his first wife, six boys and a girl, whom he loved above everything else in the world. He became afraid, soon, that the step-mother might not treat his children very well, and might even do them some great injury, so he took them away to a lonely castle which stood in the midst of a forest. The castle was so entirely hidden, and the way to it was so difficult to discover, that he himself could not have found it if a wise woman had not given him a ball of cotton which had the wonderful property, when he threw it before him, of unrolling itself and showing him the right path. The King went, however, so often to see his dear children, that the Queen, noticing his absence, became inquisitive, and wished to know what he went to fetch out of the forest. So she gave his servants a great quantity of money, and they disclosed to her the secret, and also told her of the ball of cotton which alone could show her the way. She had now no peace until she discovered where this ball was concealed, and then she made some fine silken shirts, and, as she had learnt of her mother, she sewed within each a charm. One day soon after, when the King was gone out hunting, she took the little shirts and went into the forest, and the cotton showed her the path. The children, seeing some one coming in the distance, thought it was their dear father, and ran out full of joy. Then she threw over each of them a shirt, that, as it touched their bodies, changed them into Swans, which flew away over the forest. The Queen then went home quite contented, and thought she was free of her step-children; but the little girl had not met her with the brothers, and the Queen did not know of her.
The following day the King went to visit his children, but he found only the Maiden. "Where are your brothers?" asked he. "Ah, dear father," she replied, "they are gone away and have left me alone"; and she told him how she had looked out of the window and seen them changed into Swans, which had flown over the forest; and then she showed him the feathers which they had dropped in the courtyard, and which she had collected together. The King was much grieved, but he did not think that his wife could have done this wicked deed, and, as he feared the girl might also be stolen away, he took her with him. She was, however, so much afraid of the step-mother, that she begged him not to stop more than one night in the castle.
The poor Maiden thought to herself, "This is no longer my place; I will go and seek my brothers"; and when night came she escaped and went quite deep into the wood. She walked all night long, and a great part of the next day, until she could go no further from weariness. Just then she saw a rough-looking hut, and going in, she found a room with six little beds, but she dared not get into one, so crept under, and laying herself upon the hard earth, prepared to pass the night there. Just as the sun was setting, she heard a rustling, and saw six white Swans come flying in at the window. They settled on the ground and began blowing one another until they had blown all their feathers off, and their swan's down slipped from them like a shirt. Then the Maiden knew them at once for her brothers, and gladly crept out from under the bed, and the brothers were not less glad to see their sister, but their joy was of short duration. "Here you must not stay," said they to her; "this is a robbers' hiding-place; if they should return and find you here, they would murder you."
"Can you not protect me, then?" inquired the sister.
"No," they replied; "for we can only lay aside our swan's feathers for a quarter of an hour each evening, and for that time we regain our human form, but afterwards we resume our changed appearance."
Their sister then asked them, with tears, "Can you not be restored again?"
"Oh, no," replied they; "the conditions are too difficult. For six long years you must neither speak nor laugh, and during that time you must sew together for us six little shirts of star-flowers, and should there fall a single word from your lips, then all your labor will be in vain." Just as the brothers finished speaking, the quarter of an hour elapsed, and they all flew out of the window again like Swans.
The little sister, however, made a solemn resolution to rescue her brothers, or die in the attempt; and she left the cottage, and, penetrating deep into the forest, passed the night amid the branches of a tree. The next morning she went out and collected the star-flowers to sew together. She had no one to converse with and for laughing she had no spirits, so there up in the tree she sat, intent upon her work.
After she had passed some time there, it happened that the King of that country was hunting in the forest, and his huntsmen came beneath the tree on which the Maiden sat. They called to her and asked, "Who art thou?" But she gave no answer. "Come down to us," continued they; "we will do thee no harm." She simply shook her head, and when they pressed her further with questions, she threw down to them her gold necklace, hoping therewith to satisfy them. They did not, however, leave her, and she threw down her girdle, but in vain! and even her rich dress did not make them desist. At last the huntsman himself climbed the tree and brought down the Maiden, and took her before the King.

The King asked her, "Who art thou? What dost thou upon that tree?" But she did not answer; and then he questioned her in all the languages that he knew, but she remained dumb to all, as a fish. Since, however, she was so beautiful, the King's heart was touched, and he conceived for her a strong affection. Then he put around her his cloak, and, placing her before him on his horse, took her to his castle. There he ordered rich clothing to be made for her, and, although her beauty shone as the sunbeams, not a word escaped her. The King placed her by his side at table, and there her dignified mien and manners so won upon him, that he said, "This Maiden will I marry, and no other in the world;" and after some days he wedded her.
Now, the King had a wicked step-mother, who was discontented with his marriage, and spoke evil of the young Queen. "Who knows whence the wench comes?" said she. "She who cannot speak is not worthy of a King." A year after, when the Queen brought her first-born into the world, the old woman took him away. Then she went to the King and complained that the Queen was a murderess. The King, however, would not believe it, and suffered no one to do any injury to his wife, who sat composedly sewing at her shirts and paying attention to nothing else. When a second child was born, the false stepmother used the same deceit, but the King again would not listen to her words, saying, "She is too pious and good to act so; could she but speak and defend herself, her innocence would come to light." But when again, the old woman stole away the third child, and then accused the Queen, who answered not a word to the accusation, the King was obliged to give her up to be tried, and she was condemned to suffer death by fire.
When the time had elapsed, and the sentence was to be carried out, it happened that the very day had come round when her dear brothers should be set free; the six shirts were also ready, all but the last, which yet wanted the left sleeve. As she was led to the scaffold, she placed the shirts upon her arm, and just as she had mounted it, and the fire was about to be kindled, she looked around, and saw six Swans come flying through the air. Her heart leapt for joy as she perceived her deliverers approaching, and soon the Swans, flying towards her, alighted so near that she was enabled to throw over them the shirts, and as soon as she had done so, their feathers fell off and the brothers stood up alive and well; but the youngest was without his left arm, instead of which he had a swan's wing. They embraced and kissed each other, and the Queen, going to the King, who was thunderstruck, began to say, "Now may I speak, my dear husband, and prove to you that I am innocent and falsely accused;" and then she told him how the wicked woman had stolen away and hidden her three children. When she had concluded, the King was overcome with joy, and the wicked stepmother was led to the scaffold and bound to the stake and burnt to ashes. The King and Queen for ever after lived in peace and prosperity with their six brothers.

And now the art work (;

I like underpainting in that I think about it, almost all of my paintings start in a coat of yellow.

Starting to add the first layer of the darkest shadows.

Continuing the base layers.

Starting to add the highlights.

Adding my symbols to the background (:

The finished first layers.

Close up on my Princess's face at this point.

Close up on her Chimera pocket watch.

As I was doing my early research, I discovered that historically, the chimera is always a female creature.  And the -reason- it is always female is that it was a representation of the aspects of femininity that patriarchal societies wanted to keep under control.  I wanted my pieces to help reclaim the chimera as a positive symbol of femininity and feminine strength.

Drawing in the raven that will bridge the gap between 2d and 3d.  At this point, there are up to  15 layers in any given section.

Close up on the lilies.

And now the princess is bound to the stake, ready for burning.  It is also symbolic of the way legislators are trying to bind women's bodies and women's rights.

It's a terribly blurry picture (Sorry about that) but it gives you a clear idea of the under painting for the raven's tail.

-Almost- done painting!

It's time to add the statistics.

 I will add the full information when I see the painting again and can right it down, but for right now, I'm going to share the one that truly sticks with me:

On average, a woman spends 5 years pregnant, postpartum or trying to become pregnant...and the other 30 years trying not to get pregnant.

This is the finished painting with the 3 dimensional paper crow projecting from it. 
 Now here's the build for the paper man:

Here are his feet and legs waiting for the upper portion of his body.

And this is an in progress picture of his top half.

If it looks like I'm sewing sheets of copy paper together-- that would be because it's -exactly- what I'm doing.  All in all, it took 2 1/2 weeks to construct the paper man-- but I couldn't transport him assembled-- he was in four pieces on the trip to the gallery.  I had to finish assembling my installation in the gallery.

I -love- how it looks like she's actually holding the paper as she casts the cloak out to turn her brother from a raven into a man.

Close up on his jacket.

Close up on the raven hanging from the ceiling

Close up on the Raven projecting from the painting.
The finished installation for Senior Thesis.

All in all, it took 8 hours to set these pieces up in the gallery.
 Although I love the way the paper man turned out, during critique I was given the idea of removing him entirely.  I will have to revisit this piece and modify it because I think the possibilities are even better!

You can also watch my storytelling performance where I tell the steampunked version of the tales.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'd love to hear your thoughts!