Godiva The Disobedient Wife

Godiva: The Disobedient Wife, 2009 (42"h x 16"w x 16"d) Ceramic, synthetic hair
Godiva: The Disobedient Wife, 2009 (42″h x 16″w x 16″d) Ceramic, synthetic hair
Godiva detail
Godiva detail

The inspiration for this piece came from reading the newspaper one morning thinking about the issue of domestic violence.  I read several short articles from around the country; woman killed by husband…man kills girlfriend, then kills himself…suspected pedophile arrested. This particular day there were several of these small snippets in the paper.

No parallels were drawn, no links formed, just a death in Boise, another in Buffalo, an incident in New Orleans, and so on. There was no mention of a connection because of course there was no actual link between the events. It seemed to me to be evidence of an epidemic. After all, this was only one days worth of news.

Of course the newspaper those days also contained reports from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. Violence and death, in unrelated stories, matter of fact. There was environmental news that day as well, global warming, the destruction of oxygen-producing rainforest, loss of animal habitat. Again unrelated, matter of fact.

This got me thinking.Violence has been a subtext in much of my work for ages. In general my work is straightforward in its message, but there’s a subtext of violence, another layer of meaning.

The idea for the piece Godiva: The Disobedient Wife, came from that one newspaper. How could I address violence in an artwork and draw parallels between domestic violence – particularly violence against women, with the violence we perpetrate against other nations/armies, and on our environment?

Many of us are familiar with the story of Lady Godiva. She rode through the town of Coventry on horseback with nothing covering her naked body but her long hair. As I attempted to research the legend of Godiva I discovered that she was believed to be the wife of an Earl who imposed oppressive taxes on his subjects. After her attempts to convince the Earl to repeal the taxes failed, Godiva made this historic ride in protest of her husband and to show sympathy for the townspeople. Both as an individual and politically, Godiva seemed the perfect image for my subject matter.

While it is disputed that Lady Godiva existed at all, the image is compelling. You may disagree, but for me as an artist, an enticing image is necessary. If it is not going to be a cool-looking object, I am not so interested in making it. The work must look good, cool, slick, funny,and/ or colorful but never to the detriment of or excluding its deeper meaning. If art is to be a means of communication, which it is for me, then someone has to be on the other end, willing to talk. If the object I attempt to engage you with fails to hold your interest visually, then you will not stick around for the conversation about its content.

With this in mind I envisioned a lovely nude figure with long blonde hair, thinking this would be enough to entice a viewer into looking further, perhaps an attraction/repulsion response would follow, hopefully then followed by a deeper readying of the image/sculpture itself.