90 x 130 cm [about 35 x 51 in]
Oil on Canvas, Framed
copyright 2013-2020 Kelly Borsheim
This original oil painting is a self-portrait of the artist in transition between Texas and Tuscany, as the butterfly of Michelangelo. Using the Greek myth of Persephone, the painting tells of half of the year in Texas and half of the year in Italy, a cycle that went on for several years. The myth explains the seasons, but it is also an interesting capture of the struggle of a woman between her birth family and her adult one.
The Greek myth of Persephone is a way to explain the seasons on Earth. For purposes of this original oil painting by Kelly Borsheim, the relevant parts of the story are that Persephone was the daughter of the god Zeus and Demeter, the goddess of harvest and fertility.
One day the mother and daughter were enjoying time in a garden, when Persephone saw the most enchanting narcissus flower. While she bent down for a better look and a sniff, Hades, the god of the Underworld, opened up a crack in the Earth and abducted the young maiden to be his wife, without her mother's knowledge or acceptance. The Earth closed up so quickly again that it was a very long time her mother searched until Helios, the sun God who sees all, told Demeter what happened.
In the end of an interesting discourse among the gods, Zeus declared that Persephone must remain half of the year with her husband Hades (brother of Zeus), and the other half in Olympus with her mother.
Demeter was never satisfied that her beautiful and beloved daughter became the Queen of the Underworld, surrounded by the dead. Thus, in her six months without her daughter, Demeter abandoned her duties of goddess of the harvest and fertility and the Earth suffered.
The Greeks deemed this cold, barren time of a mother's grief as autumn and winter. When Persephone returned from the land of the dead, spring arrived and then became summer.If you would like to know more about the story of Persephone, this is an easy read:
The Inspiration for the painting Persephone:
There was a period in my life when I was transitioning: six months in Texas, USA, and six months in Tuscany, Italy. Always a fan of the myths and fables, especially because of their descriptions of human dualities, I began to feel like Persephone of Greek myth fame.
Above: A billboard from IH-35 indicating Italy, Texas: it seemed my destiny to connect the two places. In 2011, I was divorced and driving northeast out of the place I called home since 1987.
In the spring of 2013, I had been happily living in a shared flat in the wonderful neighborhood of Santo Spirito, just steps from the tree-filled piazza on the Oltrarno side of Florence, Italy. However, it was during that time, a period of three months or more of the truth unfolding and high stress, that I learned I would be evicted from my home, with several others because my Florentine flatmate and former friend had blackmailed our landlady. It is a disturbing and long story that I will tell you if you ask me sometime.
Suffice it to say, I felt once again, a woman in transition. But this time it was not my own doing. I conceived of this painting and started it in March and April of 2013, eventually becoming homeless for a couple of weeks at the end of June.
The idea of myself as Persephone with one foot in Texas and one foot in Tuscany was a no-brainer. However, to create a composition, I needed to tell the rest of the story visually. So, I needed a narcissus flower.
Long ago, I had a goal to touch a Michelangelo sculpture before I reached the ripe old age of 40 years. So, I found myself at 39 years old hiking around Italy with a backpack for six weeks. [I met my goal, too.] So, I realized that Michelangelo was my narcissus flower, my distraction, if you will, that led to my coming to Italy when I did.
However, I knew that this would be a self-portrait and worried that Michelangelo's powerful figures would take over not just the composition, but the story behind the idea. Thus, I began searching the Internet for his non-figurative drawings. When I found this one, I knew it was perfect!
You will see below Michelangelo's architectural drawing of the Porta al Prato for Florence, Italy (never built). La Porta al Prato (literally 'the door to Prato,' a nearby city) has been moved and rebuilt, from what I have heard, but Michelangelo's design has never been realized. However, look at the shape of his defensive walls: a BUTTERFLY, no?
The reason this was great was because in the language of visual symbols, a butterfly often represents transition. The idea became clear, but I wanted the butterfly to be subordinate, a part you perhaps feel more than see right away.
So, I added a more obvious narcissus element: Michelangelo's famous staircase in The Laurentian Library (Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana.) It is near the church of San Lorenzo in Florence, Italy, and was, along with other architectural designs, the artist's inventive break with tradition.
This painting moved with me five times until I found my current home (which coincidentally, 3 December 2020 is my FIFTH anniversary to moving to my new street in the hills of Tuscany, Swiss Pesciatina aka Valleriana).
In October 2020, my solo show "Stories" from May finally happened in Pescia, Tuscany. It had been postponed due to the Covid virus. The exhibit included the other autobiographical painting of Greek myth inspiration, Pandora.
The Bottega d'Arte Salvadori is a small gallery, but I love and trust the father, Giovanni, the son Stefano and daughter Irene. This show was a joy and well-received despite the semi-quarantine that became another severe one on 11 Nov 2020. The exhibit after mine was cancelled and my exhibit stayed for for a few more days.
Here I am with the family Salvadori [L to R]: Stefano, Irene, and dad Giovanni; opening night of my solo exhibit "Stories" in their gallery and frame shop in Pescia, Tuscany, Italy. 'Persefone' makes her debut!
Opening night with my paintings "New Year's Eve" and "Persephone." Thanks to Paul Edwards for the photo.
Here is "Persefone" with "Ruth."