BARBARA NERI Artist Statement


February 8, 2007

Venus of Willendorf: Redefining the Goddess exhibit

Duderstadt Gallery February 9 - 26, 2007



Created in 2000, this work is from The EBB Project. The Project began in 1995 and emerged from a mysterious dream I had

about Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning (EBB). Since then much work has emerged and been exhibited, presented &

published in various ways. Viewers can explore the project in detail at this website. This particular visual art work gives flesh, in

today's world, to EBB's allusion to Minerva in "Sonnet 1" of her 44 Sonnets from the Portuguese. When you see the work

you will notice that "Sonnet 1" is layered within the work. The specific allusion or moment concludes the Sonnet

as the 'speaker' is drawn back from her descent into melancholy...


"Straightway I was 'ware,

So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move

Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair,

And a voice said in mastery while I strove, . .

'Guess now who holds thee?'-'Death,' I said. But, there,

The silver answer rang . . 'Not Death, but Love.'


EBB uses a moment from Homer's Iliad when Minerva descends and draws Achilles back from his murderous rage toward Agamemnon.

Minerva tells Achilles to give his mind over to reason not wrath. Interestingly, EBB turns the tables on the Greeks

and makes Minerva, the Goddess of wisdom and reason, her agent of Love. As a Greek scholar EBB certainly knew

that the Greeks gave the messy and troublesome emotion of Love to Aphrodite. But in EBB's Sonnet,

Minerva, the Goddess of wisdom, speaks the word Love. And we might interpret this to mean that it is the 'wisdom of Love' that EBB speaks of.

And perhaps further deduce that the discussion of Love that the 44 Sonnets from the Portuguese are is one that is tempered by reason:

Love is reasonable and wise.

(Below: Woman looking at Neri's exhibited work.)


venus 1



EBB's refers to or uses Homer's allusion to Minerva and I refer to or use EBB's allusion. Thus it is that ideas are built upon and the layered consciousness of humanity evolves. In my work, Minerva's hands are seen drawing a woman back by her hair from her grievous situation. The woman grieving has an ancient look, but she is taken from a recent associated press photo and you will see that I have disclosed that information in the work. I like taking actual events and news photographs and making them part of my work. (So does the grafiti artist Banksy!) I attempt to make relevant what is discarded or misunderstood. At the same time I ask a question: How can Love be a reasonable solution in the face of death and despair? I think Elizabeth asked a similar question (among others) and it took her 44 sonnets to work it out for us. The discourse on Love continues and though it masquerades as romance, it is deeply political, theological and metaphysical. In addition, the Goddess is always cropping up in various ways and being re-cast by artists and poets towards their own ends. I challenge, as EBB did, the viewer / reader to know more of their mythic and poetic his/herstory.





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