Bestiary is the product of a long fascination with Greek mythology and early 19th Century photography. Based on a set of mostly hybrid creature descriptions and influenced by religious iconography, myth comes full circle and meets social criticism by molding these monstrous archetypes into a contemporary commentary. Most importantly, in this series, the beasts are separated from their usually singular dimension, assuming complex, tragic personalities in which monsters and heroes become difficult to tell apart.
Drawing from the vast pictorial collection of the US Library of Congress, these characters possess the hunting qualities of early photography, when subjects were not camera-savvy and their awe for technology was etched in their expression as, to a certain degree, their souls were captured by the lens. Their photos became psychological portraits way before my digital intervention made them supernatural. This deformed pantheon combines widely known mythical protagonists with more obscure characters from the depths of ancient Greek sources.
Being enamored of the beauty of beasts is an obsession that periodically creeps up on me and demands expression in mysterious ways. This time, I found the subjects of these old prints not only captivating and willing to be transformed into legendary creatures, but also open to the language of documentation and archives, including the official signing and stamping of documents. Mostly, I found that their vulnerability to the passage of time that brutally ages them also makes them visually compelling and worth preserving.
Bestiaries are traditionally catalogs where the natural history notes and illustration of beasts are usually accompanied by a moral lesson and this one is no different. Today, nature and science intertwine in ways that at times prove to be less than ideal and this compilation of brutes is a testament to this exact point.
Robert Graves’s 1955 tome, The Greek Myths, provided the core resource on the characters, and it illuminated these fascinating tales that I had only known of in their overly sanitized versions from my school years in Greece. The human, sexual, and violent dimensions of the beasts described in his texts re-sparked my interest in the subject and deeply inspired my images and symbols. Reading this book repeatedly with pen in hand, just a few kilometers from the ancient fortress of Argos, gave substance to the legends and completed my bewitchment.