The Huntress Diana
Huntress Diana with Two Nymphs, after Paris Bordone
Oil on plaster polymer and foam | 30x60x12 inches | 2018
I am obsessed with paintings that are lost. They are moments of time ripped from our shared history. The disappearance of art can alter the trajectory of the stories we are told, stories we tell ourselves and each other. Missing spaces in history can lead to revamped histories, bias and half-truths. Or, these missing puzzle pieces can be used for good. Found, discovered and reinvented to communicate on our current timeline. I've been through enough museum repositories around the world to know much of our visual history does not exist on museum walls. However, I am inspired to bring forward past artist's stories and visions and weave them into my own personal tales, almost like mending small tears in our visual history.
I've focused on reinterpreting lost, stolen, destroyed and hidden artworks for nearly 25 years of my art career. (Sometimes, I take breaks, because we all need to experiment. Variety is the spice of life!) But, this particular piece, The Huntress Diana with Two Nymphs, after Paris Bordone, I began working on at a particularly difficult time of my life. I was beginning the early stages of grief and change of a long relationship that was ending. Grief isn't an unusual topic for artists to dive into because the artwork alone is a form of therapy and exploration. For me, it was a deep dive not only into my own grief, but a collective grief of the beauty we as a civilization have missed out on because of ignorance, greed and war. The painting this was based on was destroyed during WW2 in a fire caused by a bomb dropping on a church belfry in Germany. In addition, the artwork was a testament, a witness to the transformation of my model.
My model was transforming from a succesful gastric bypass surgery. She had lost upwards of 80 lbs at the time a figure cast was made from her body. It was a challenging process. She opened herself up for art to be created. Like, literally. She stood naked and exposed in order to have slimy, cold alginate gooped onto her body, and was then wrapped with plaster gauze. She had no idea at the time how generous her act of collaboration was in the process of my own self-discovery.
I grew up in a family where a sibling had this same surgery. I remember growing up around the perpetual cycle of shame and guilt affiliated with weight and percieved body image and worth. It was a different type of grief and one that was a life long experience for my entire family. This artwork was personal. Every single aspect was planned out from the most basic idea through to the figure casting, subject matter and oil painting. Every day was a meditation on loss while painting this piece. Loss of family, loss of dreams, loss of myself, loss of pieces of culture, loss of so many things that at times my hollow shell would sit in front of this painting and I'd swallow my tears while diving into a numb state to work through the puzzle of art. I came out stronger on the other side, not only as an artist, but as a person. Grief isn't done with me, but I now know when the wave is about to crash and I'm better prepared.
The subject matter of this painting is significant. Diana the Huntress was a powerful goddess of the wild; goddess of the hunt. This is exactly the empowering image I wanted to potray in this artwork. The process of this painting exposed vast spaces of vulerability that eventually were filled in with courage and beauty. As it should be.
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Laura Spector is a visual artist and art instructor living in Houston, always willing to travel.