BFA exhibition by Kei Tanaka
I have been interested in Greek mythology for as long as I can remember. Stories and art depicting gods/titans have inspired me to imagine immortality and heroic deeds that only gods could do. The exhibition title refers to Mnemosyne who is the Titan of Memory and mother of the Nine Muses and carries the stories of goddesses and the worlds of titans and heroes in Greek mythology. In this exhibition titled Mnemosyne’s Manifesto, I explore the goddesses, female titans in Greek mythology. Male heroes and gods such as Hercules and Zeus often dominate Greek mythology, and this exhibition is an opportunity to highlight equally heroic female archetypes. Although more rare, the stories around female titans and goddesses have the potential to inspire women to see themselves in these characters, to be reminded of their own strength within, and hope for better in these trying times.
My paintings investigate lesser-known females in Greek Mythology such as Persephone, Orithyia, Styx, and Themis. The Goddess of Springtime, Persephone suffered an unhappy marriage after taken by Hades to the underworld, where she was married and crowned the Queen of the Damned. Her mother, Demeter, negotiated a yearly reunion with her each spring. Also kidnapped by an admirer, Orithyia of Athens was a most beautiful princess. Forced to marry Boreas, the God of the North Wind, Orithyia was made immortal and became the goddess of cold mountain winds. Styx, an Oceanid nymph, helped the Gods in the war against the Titans and so Zeus gifted her a river that souls cross to reach the underworld and their afterlife. He also declared that all vows made on River Styx would be unbreakable. The goddess of justice, Themis made the laws for all men to follow. Nyx, referred to as the goddess of the night, was so powerful that even Zeus feared her.
In Greek myth stories, Atlas is male. My version is female because I believe that gender does not determine inner strength. As a self-portrait, I wanted to draw attention to my own struggle with anxiety and depression. In the myth story, Atlas carries the world on his shoulders. Like Atlas’s burden of the sky, the emotional weight of anxiety is enormous but invisible.
What remains for Pandora, October 2020, 32" x 48", oil paint
All hail Persephone, Queen of the Damned, November 2020, 32" x 48", oil paint
Nyx, Zeus fears her, January 2021, 32" x 48", oil paint
Atlas as a goddess, February 2021, 32" x 48", oil paint
Crossing River Styx, March 2021, 44" x 68", oil paint
Orithyia of Athens, February 2021, 20" x 68", oil paint
Themis Awakens, March 2021, 48" x 108", acrylic and oil paint
To my BFA supervisor, Allyson Glenn for her kindness and guidance.
To models, McKenzie, my Persephone, and Paige, my Nyx.
To my dad for helping me with wood working and installation.
To my family and friends for their support and love.