Art in the Library
Icarus On The Metolius
Icarus on The Metolius is a varnished watercolor by Sisters artist, Paul Alan Bennett.
The original owner of the painting recently passed away. In his will, he asked that this rare and unusual painting should be re-sold to raise funds for the Sisters Library. As sellers of Paul Alan Bennett’s fine art, Sisters Gallery and Frame Shop, is managing this process.
Icarus On the Metolius was originally completed in 2003 as a donation piece for the first fundraiser My Own Two Hands, part of the Sisters Folk Festival. It came about as a result of the fundraiser’s theme of flying. It is also the first and only time that Paul created the name of the work before making the painting.
Paul, a former art history teacher at COCC with an M.A. in Greek history, lived in Greece for six years. He used several art history and Greek mythology references in the work. Here are some of them.
Icarus’s father, Daedalus, was a talented Athenian craftsman, who built the Labyrinth for King Minos of Crete, to imprison the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull monster born of his wife and the Cretan bull. Minos also imprisoned Daedalus in the labyrinth because he gave Minos’s daughter, Ariadne, a ball of string in order to help Theseus, the enemy of Minos, to survive the Labyrinth and defeat the Minotaur. In order to escape the Labyrinth, Daedalus made two pairs of wings from wax and feathers for himself and Icarus. Daedalus warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, nor too close to the sea. But Icarus, overwhelmed by giddiness of flying, soared too close to the sun, whose heat melted the wax. Icarus kept flapping his wings, but the feathers fell away and he fell into the sea.
In this painting, we see Icarus crashing down into the waters of the Metolius behind an oblivious fly fisherman. Icarus is painted red. Male figures are usually painted red in Minoan art. There was also a style of fifth century B.C. art called red-figure pottery.
Icarus appears to be breaking out of a kind of organic shape. In Byzantine paintings, the Virgin Mary is often portrayed as surrounded by this kind of body halo. The feathers falling down are references to the myth of the death of the winged horse, Pegasus. According to the story, after his death, the body of Pegasus was physically taken up into the heavens to be made into a constellation. One of his feathers slowly floated back to earth. The Icarus Fly is shown in the little circle to one side of the fisherman. It is made out of the fallen wings of Icarus. It reflects the contemporary art of fly-tying but in a humorous way.
The fisherman is totally unaware of Icarus crashing behind him. This is similar to The Fall of Icarus, a 16th-century painting by Pieter Bruegel, where ancient themes were often portrayed in contemporary scenes. In a Bruegel’s painting, Icarus falls into the sea, while in the foreground, a plowman pays no attention to him. Both Bruegel’s painting and Paul’s painting ask the question: Is it more important to just get on with the work at hand, or to pay closer attention to the magical events that occur, perhaps, daily in our lives?
Don’t miss this special opportunity to own this painting and help Sisters Library. Visit Sisters Gallery and Frame Shop at 252 W. Hood Ave. 541-549-9552
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