Cartapesta Sculpture of Greek Gods: Omphale, Queen of Lydia

17 Apr
copyright April 2012 Palamidessi

Omphale, an earth Goddess and powerful Queen, took Hercules, the Strongest Man in the World, as her lover.

In progress, this sculpture generated many associations. Omphale is the feminine form of the Greek word for “umbilicus.”  So from there…

Navel. Connection between worlds. Omphalas, the center of the Greek world. Transition. Wormhole between earth and sky. Life and death. Protoplasm and flesh. Mother and child. Nourishment. A hole. Butterflies, too: omphale, and psuedoomphale, butterflies, both with dots.

For a while I was a volunteer at Boston’s Museum of Science and worked in the Butterfly Room, so I had butterfly mojo.

FRONT OF SCULPTURE: From those intuitive and intellectual ideas, I began to draw butterflies on the blank cartapesta, which had been cast over my model’s lower torso.

Then there was the story of Queen of Lydia (the Kingdom of Lydia is where modern-day Turkey is now) and it was a very sexy story. The back of the sculpture became a platform for sex talk, between Hercules and Lydia.

BACK OF SCULPTURE: Lydia was an earth goddess who acquired Hercules as a slave.  She bought him from the god Hermes. Hercules, you see, wanted to purify himself after having had killed his friend Iphitus, so he allowed himself to be sold: a great insult for a god.

Once ensconced in Lydia’s court, Hercules held the yarn while Lydia and her female slaves spun it into cloth.  He  did whatever this woman commanded of him–including fathering children with here maids.  He and Lydia had a peculiar habit of role reversal and cross-dressing. Hercules, the Strongest Man in the World,would wear negligee, girdles, yellow pajamas and have his hair braided and perfumed by Lydia’s maid servants. Lydia the Queen wore her lover’s lion skin and carried his club.

I assumed it was an experimental. fun, and polyamourous few years and that is what I wrote about on the back of the sculpture.

A small book covered it with animal hide, like Hercule’s garment, is affixed to the back of the sculpture. In it, there’s a story about another escapade–Pan visiting Lydia’s castle. Pan you know, is a rascal. He arrived long after midnight and wanted a roll in the sack with the queen.  He went into her bedroom, reached under the sheets, felt silky negligee , and –yes, you guessed it–he ended up having sex with Hercules. This upset Pan , the god of the wild and music, whose lower body was the hindquarters of a goat: homosexual love was not his cup of tea.  He made a rule: from then on anyone who partied with him or participated in his nocturnal forest rites had to do it naked.


2 Responses to “Cartapesta Sculpture of Greek Gods: Omphale, Queen of Lydia”

  1. Dena Albright April 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    I like this one. I really don’t know that much about sculptures but something in this one draws me back to it. I really do like it.

    • sistersdoart April 17, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

      Hey Dena, thanks for checking into the blog. I will be adding more to the story about this sculpture later today.
      It is very interesting– the “navels”. Omphale, in Greek means navel. The butterfly, depicted here and one I am sure you have seen, is named’omphale’ because of the many navels on its wing. Glad you like it!

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Two Sisters Do Art

Christine and Pamela Palamidessi

Kristen Lamb

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