Details27 1/2×17″, oil on panel, 2012
Exhibited in “The Uncanny,” S.R. Brennen Galleries, Santa Fe, NM
A favorite story of mine is the Greek myth of Icarus, son of the great inventor Daedalus. When the two of them found themselves prisoners on the island of Crete, his father fashioned two pairs of wings from feathers and beeswax so that they might escape. Daedalus made him promise that he would not fly too close to sun; the wax in his wings would melt, and he would plummet to his death in the ocean. But Icarus was like most young men and did not believe in his own mortality. He flew higher and higher until tragically, his father’s prediction became true. I look to the Icarus myth as a parable of mankind’s instinctive pursuit of greatness, at any cost.
“Icarus Ascending” is the product of multiple influences. I had W. B. Yates’s “He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven” in mind when I draped the ancient quilt over the top of my tableau. Yates’s poem contains the selfsame unrequited yearning that I think is embodied in the Icarus myth. The two birds are a motif that recurs in several of my paintings; they represent my husband and myself. Industriously at work together, they are lining their nest with the stars of heaven. The stars, representing dreams and ambitions, come also from W. H. Auden’s “As I Went Out One Evening”: “I’ll love you till the ocean/ Is folded and hung up to dry/ And the seven stars go squawking/ Like geese about the sky.”