Artist Yolanda Chetwynd



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These paintings explore the history of

the Venus de Milo

Scroll down to read the artist's statement about the work and click on individual works to see enlargements

Venus Bathes Nursing Aenaes On Milo
Final Details Sculptor's Nightmare Cassanova meets Winckelmann
Voutier Discovers Voutier Draws On the ship Estafette
Odyssey of the Mind Odyssey of the Mind (Individual titles are listed at the end of the statement)

Venus. The goddess of love’s name resonates from the forming of myths into the present day—even finding a place in teenagers’ imaginations. Why?

This series of ten oil paintings explores that fascinating question. My "tale" starts with the goddess's origin in the mists of time. Then we experience the creation and later rediscovery of her most influential manifestation, the “disarmed” Greek statue, the Venus de Milo. The final painting brings her into the modern day.

The initial, and most essential, inspiration for these paintings came from my daughter. As her “Odyssey of the Mind” project at Newark High School (DE), she and her teammates created a performance focusing on the Venus de Milo. Caroline submitted to being life-cast to re-create the sculpture.

As my daughter researched the topic, I became increasingly drawn to the history/herstory of this icon. Then I discovered the book Disarmed: A Story of the Venus de Milo by Gregory Curtis. And I began to think about recreating this story through my own artistic perspective.

 My approach links a number of my influences and interests.
• My first thought was to create a graphic novel – comic books intrigue me as a storytelling medium. Later I decided to tell the story through a series of tableaus, the way Hogarth did in his "Rake's Progress.”
• Eight of the pieces are inspired by Rembrandt drawings, which influenced the paintings in terms of composition and structure.
• Two are based on woodcuts that illustrated the 1939 book on the rediscovery of the statue, La Venus de Milo et Olivier Voutier by Jean-Paul Alaux.

On my palette (a large sheet of glass) I create “pools” of color, and often spend hours just mixing them to find the right “warm” green or flesh tone —the one that supports the story I have in mind and enhances the drama. Using this range of shades, I draw with the paint, moving tiny amounts of pigment around the surface of the canvas.

As I work, iconography, symbols, and natural features appear, dissolve and reappear, often viewed from different perspectives. They provide clues and emphasis, and link the segments of the story together, even if the viewer does not consciously “recognize” them.

I also focused on the way the paintings are staged and the way the figures stand, with their well-defined legs and feet. This gives them a feeling of permanence and presence, and keeps them grounded in their surroundings.

As I worked on this series, I was surprised by how far removed the paintings have become from the drawings and woodcuts that inspired them. The story itself forced me to change the paintings!

By retelling the stories of the past, we can see how they affect the present. My paintings are a way to connect with our tribal history in a visual form, to explore the value of beauty, to answer the question of why an ageless myth and a statue nearly 2,000 years old remain a definition of beauty for us.

TITLES

1) The Goddess Venus Bathes, Accompanied by her Entourage, on a Summer’s Evening.

2) Venus nursing Aeneas founder of Rome while his father the mortal Anchise looks on. Her husband, Vulcan, is occupied with carving his sculptures in the next room.

3) On the Aegean Island of Milo, the Timeless Statue of Venus is Carved by Alexandros, Son of Menides. (80 BC) He came from Antioch, a Roman city founded in western Turkey in 270 BC. The title Venus de Milo is a pun, milo meaning apple or melon. The statue originally held an apple in her left hand.

4) Alexandros Adds the Final Details to his Sculpture, Painting her Hair a Golden Yellow and her Lips a Ruby Red and Adorning her Body with Jewelry – Earrings, Armbands, a Crown, and a Necklace. (80 BC)

5) The Sculptor’s Nightmare.

6) Casanova Visits the German Scholar Winckelmann in Rome. (1760s)He finds him “as usual engrossed in deciphering the mysteries of Greek art.” Winckelmann was the scholar who divided Greek art into periods of greatness, citing the “golden age” as about 500-300 BC. He claimed, incorrectly, that Roman/Greek art was inferior to earlier work.

7) Olivier Voutier Discovers the Sculpture. (April 8, 1820) The young French naval officer asked a farmer named Yorgos to assist him in exploring ancient Greek ruins on the island.

8) The Party is Joined by Louis Brest, a Representative of the French Government, who Watches as Olivier Makes a Drawing of his Find. (April 1820)

9) The Venus de Milo, Bathed in Moonlight, Travels on the Bow of the Ship Estafette, Surrounded by the Crew. (1820)

10) The Odyssey of the Mind Team at Newark High School (DE) Makes a Life Cast of Caroline Beston So She Can Portray the Venus de Milo in an Eight-Minute Skit. (January 2010)

11) An Interpretative impression of the NHS Odyssey of the Mind skit preformed at Gore Hall, University of Delaware, on March 6th 2010