As I read The Iliad I journey along with the exploits of men. Exploits that surround the loss of one woman to their enemy. I am taken to another world. Betrayal, love, pride and valor trace through the story like a well routed vine entangling itself as it breaks up the pavement of civilization. Ancient Greek epics swell and billow with the hot steam of a potent mythology. It is a remedy to life that once infused the ancients, and continues to mystify and propel today. Even here in the middle of busy Manhattan the infusion continues to work it’s way, where the Onassis Center has opened it’s doors to expose another facet of Greece’s seminal contribution to the modern world.
Currently on show is the exhibition ‘Worshiping Women: Ritual and Reality in Classical Athens’, on at the Onassis Cultural Center. In this symposium of artifacts, vases and sculptures we are treated to a distinctly feminine perspective, with a wide look at the lives, rituals and roles of women in ancient Greece.
Of particular beauty are the serene folds of sculpted drapery in various statues, gently displayed on the sylph-like poses of women of artistry, nymps, muses, godesses. Then there are the women of work, the war-goddess, the hunter, the home-maker, the child bearer.
Their presence in that society is key and central and very visual as I see before me the tangible form of yet another Athena, perhaps just as she revealed herself to the bewildered Helen of Troy.
I race back to my Iliad to remember that vision again in literate verse, and as I am in the Boston MFA over the weekend I also make a point to see if they have many other pieces that show the women in greater detail. As it turns out, they have a nice selection – as seen above.