Over the past 10 months, Hyeseung Marriage-Song created large-scale paintings and monoprints inspired by Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Tommy Zurhellen’s own imaginative retelling of her classic tale, taking the age-old myth of the golem into the 21st century. This unique project goes beyond the dyadic collaboration between Zurhellen and Marriage-Song, harnessing the power of the creative spirit of many individuals, for all the models who sat for the works are artists and mighty figures in the art world themselves, such as Sir John Richardson, Vin Ganapathy, Chris Rubino and Michael Gormley. (Please scroll down to read more about Marriage-Song’s philosophy in creating these works.)
More works are currently in progress. Marist College Art Gallery in Poughkeepsie, NY, opens an exhibition with some completed works on Thursday, September 27, and the show will be up until October 20. The entirety of Marriage-Song’s new body of work will be opening to the public at Gowanus Loft in Brooklyn on Thursday November 15, 2018. (Events link.) Until then, please continue to check back for updates to this digital gallery. Inquire here for pricing of works.
More About These Works
Though mainstream culture is seeped in the Frankenstein tale, it’s often forgotten that Frankenstein was the not the name of the monster, but the scientist who made him. Mary Shelley’s tale, written 200 years ago this year, was an imaginative spin on the myth of the golem brought to us through many cultures— perhaps most memorably by the ancient Greek Titan Prometheus (in fact, Shelley chose “the Modern Prometheus” to be the subtitle of her short book) and very richly by Jewish folklore. In that tradition, an anthropomorphic being, a golem, was fashioned of “the light form” or “raw” material, often clay, and imbued with some autonomy and human agency. In many of the stories, the impetus to create the golem was to aid the Jewish people in a moment of crisis, but the being must finally be destroyed (returned to dust) after it is found ultimately uncontrollable. Present through all these tales is the theme of hubris— humans’ hubris: having made an ersatz copy of themselves, to think mistakenly the one who is formed can be contained and controlled.
Marriage-Song’s contemporary updating of the golem myth seizes also on the theme of creativity and the idea of light and darkness in all humans. We know that Viktor Frankenstein is driven to create something out of nothing; at base, then, he is an artist, for that is the artist’s life— to form out of the raw what must ultimately go out in the world, interact with others and thus makes a life of its own. As for Frankenstein’s monster, he wants a partner created for himself— so he, too, in that way possesses the creative impulse. Though Boris Karloff’s interpretation of the monster is striking and lives still fresh in our minds, Marriage-Song in this project wanted to convey an image of the golem as beautiful, complex, intelligent— and perhaps tattooed, a modern play on the suturing together of the cemetery cadavers that Shelley’s scientist-artist was driven to.
These paintings were not made as direct illustrations of the plot of Zurhellen’s or Shelley’s books. They are, instead, psychological and philosophical meditations of those texts and the golem mythology. Zurhellen’s characters are portrayed psychologically, with the action of the story reflected in the visual idiom of unsettled and fractured forms, swirling circularity, brushwork that is at times resolved and at others broken. The manipulations of art convention serves Marriage-Song’s vision that every generation creates copies of themselves which are let loose upon the world, and then those, inevitably becoming artist-makers themselves, create again, and so on and so forth, thereby making us all a little bit monster, a little bit artist.
Who knows, and cares, which generation we are in this iterative process.