Death of Venus; a Description
The basswood figure is 24” long from fingertips to toes, on a 15” x 27” mahogany base. It is a partially articulated marionette, without strings, to represent the control others are exerting on the woman’s body. The basswood was stained and then varnished with satin polyurethane. To make the hair color, venetian red pigment was added to the stain.
The mahogany base was chip carved in the pattern of a maelstrom. It is meant to represent both earth and water, from which Venus arose, and which now pulls her under. It was treated with linseed oil and museum wax.
The rocks are real and represent the stoning of women throughout the ages. About half are painted with the words that have become a thoughtless, daily assault on women. Epoxy holds them in place.
The stakes represent the laws being passed to repress and control women, reducing them to virtual slavery. There are statements burned on each stake, summarizing the attitudes, laws, and statistics that compelled this creation.
On each long side of the base are two statements burned into the wood: “They shall do with you as they please,” and “My body, my life, my decisions.”
Death of Venus; the Process
This work took seven weeks to complete, at a minimum of three, eight-hour days each week. The figure was roughed out with electric tools, then hand carved, and a few of the smallest details were smoothed out with a micro power tool. The hair, however, was completely hand carved.
I had to carve the head twice. The first time I took off too much wood at the mouth and there was no going back. Then I had trouble with the size of the head. At the suggestion of my anatomy teacher, I modeled the head in clay first and then carved it to size. It was an excellent suggestion and worked so well I may do this more often in future carvings.
Painting the words on the rocks turned out to be an uncomfortable experience. I was acutely aware I was defacing the rocks, which I had collected at various times for their beauty, by putting these awful words on them. I thought about how we have desensitized ourselves culturally, through profanity, as we throw these words at women without thought to the psychological damage they inflict.
Before I was even finished with this piece, I realized there is another, perhaps more powerful image I must create of the death of Venus. This next carving will be more abstract, but in a way, I had to get all this detail out of my system in order to be clear for the next work.