Since 2008 I have occupied a discarded subject, Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. Shakespeare’s fame promises reverent proximity to culture’s intellectual center, yet this play’s weak status places it--and me--in an unpoliced zone at the edge of the canon. The best is adhered to the worst, and strength is inseparable from weakness.
I produce a distinct body of work for each character in the play based on intuitive associations. I trust intuition because intuition is the primary survival mechanism for children and marginalized people. Any character can be an entry point into the entire project, yet no single character can give the project’s full scope. I have introduced 11 characters so far, and I have worked on the Merchant character since the pandemic began. Merchant includes circular compositions based on early illustrations of the Covid virus, with depictions of vinyl records and money included. The records are songs I remember from a jukebox in my hometown laundromat that I visited with my mother in the 1970’s. The memories of a single Appalachian child are allowed inside the Shakespeare property. The marginalized and forgotten is willfully overlaid onto the Western world’s most remembered creator.
I have worked on this project for 14 years, and I will continue it until I address the entire cast of the play. I have come to recognize that I’ve initiated a slow-moving intervention directly into the Western canon. In the end, the asymmetry between Shakespeare’s reputation my own will likely remain intact. Yet there will come a time when Timon of Athens will be known as mine instead of his.
(Delta Dawn O Superman)
oil & alkyd on canvas over panel