Civil Eyes by Andy Cross
In the transitioning century from BC to AD, the Roman Emperor Augustus asked the Senate to vote on whether he should be worshiped like a God. The men of the Roman senate debated.
As customary of the time, they called for the opinion of a Pagan Priestess, the Sibyl of Tiburtine (she was a famous Italian Oracle of the old world). Emperor Augustus asked her the same question, “Shall I be worshiped as a God?” She responded with a motion of her hand from the sun in the sky downward to the town square, where she pointed to a mother holding a newborn, and stated to the Emperor, “they are greater than you.”
While Donald Trump is testing the limits of presidential power and his administration enacts new immigration policies that separate children from their mothers at the border, historical narratives of infanticide are reborn.
Horrific images like “The Rape of the Sabine Women” and the “Massacre of the Innocent” by some of the ‘old masters’ such as Nicolas Poussin, Peter Paul Rubens, and Jacques-Louis David, are thought to be subjects of the past.
However, the visual impact of the first Women’s March in 2017 highlighted the contrast between the militarized, black clad, riot-police and the spectrum of pink worn by those standing up and speaking out. In light of that day, as well as, all the slashing policies under Trump to privatize profits and socialize losses, these epic paintings of the past have begun to re-animate in our present age.
Perhaps the books, prophesy and songs of the Sibyl’s were correct? Although many of their messages have been lost, burned, and plagiarized the images of the Sibyls that adorn the ceiling of the Sistine chapel and painted throughout art history tell a story of prophetic wisdom. With their eyes turned inward, questioning the nature of civilization, they warned of a future ripe in sorrow and destruction that would last as long as power lay in the hands of greedy men. Wars of man would bring the world to the brink of an apocalypse. Yet, in the afterglow a balance would be restored through the work of women, so that equality and peace for humanity can be regained.
History is cyclical. For the present is just a moment, while reflecting on the past it creates a mirror of the future. Sadly, the greed of power hungry men has made “The Massacre of the Innocent” a worthy subject matter again.
Andy Cross: Civil Eyes, September 13-29, 2018
ZieherSmith at The High Line Nine
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