monday, february 25, 2008
Gastromancy

Many people ask me to explain my "naval" or "belly" drawings. The significance of the belly and the naval in my images is something that is being revealed to me even now. These images have always seemed to come into my work of their own accord. The connotations that they hold for me are constantly swinging from delightful to embarrassing; redemptive to demonic. While I was just beginning to work with these images in the fall of 2006, I ran across the article below.† It seemed to me then to be a missing link or maybe a key to the content of the belly drawings. Shortly after that, I found that these meanings seemed to correspond to my internal (and external) condition so directly that they were like premonitions or prophesy. Feeling alarmed by what the navels seemed to be saying, it was necessary to put these drawings away and work on other things for awhile. In those months my work splayed out into several other directions; ink drawings, etchings, oil portraits, etc. These diversions were rewarding but the navels and their language was never far away. Now the time has come to return to them and face them directly. The navels are not happy things, although they smile and sometimes laugh. Sometimes they laugh at me; sometimes with me. The last thing I want to do is make negative or morbid imagery. The world doesn’t need that. I’m not looking for pity or fear. I am looking for redemption—for this work, for this body, for this particular part of human nature that they seem to always be grinning about. So now the naval drawings have been brought out of incubation and allowed to breathe and influence other drawings and, perhaps, take on newer and more hopeful associations.

 
 
At the court of that great master of ingenuity, Pantagruel observed two sorts of troublesome and too officious apparitors, whom he very much detested. The first were called Engastrimythes; the others, Gastrolaters.
 
The first pretended to be descended of the ancient race of Eurycles, and for this brought the authority of Aristophanes in his comedy called the Wasps; whence of old they were called Euryclians, as Plato writes, and Plutarch in his book of the Cessation of Oracles. In the holy decrees, 26, qu. 3, they are styled Ventriloqui; and the same name is given them in Ionian by Hippocrates, in his fifth book of Epid., as men who speak from the belly. Sophocles calls them Sternomantes. These were soothsayers, enchanters, cheats, who gulled the mob, and seemed not to speak and give answers from the mouth, but from the belly.
 
Such a one, about the year of our Lord 1513, was Jacoba Rodogina, an Italian woman of mean extract; from whose belly we, as well as an infinite number of others at Ferrara and elsewhere, have often heard the voice of the evil spirit speak, low, feeble, and small, indeed, but yet very distinct, articulate, and intelligible, when she was sent for out of curiosity by the lords and princes of the Cisalpine Gaul. To remove all manner of doubt, and be assured that this was not a trick, they used to have her stripped stark naked, and caused her mouth and nose to be stopped. This evil spirit would be called Curled-pate, or Cincinnatulo, seeming pleased when any called him by that name, at which he was always ready to answer. If any spoke to him of things past or present, he gave pertinent answers, sometimes to the amazement of the hearers; but if of things to come, then the devil was gravelled, and used to lie as fast as a dog can trot. Nay, sometimes he seemed to own his ignorance, instead of an answer letting out a rousing fart, or muttering some words with barbarous and uncouth inflexions, and not to be understood.
 
As for the Gastrolaters, they stuck close to one another in knots and gangs. Some of them merry, wanton, and soft as so many milk-sops; others louring, grim, dogged, demure, and crabbed; all idle, mortal foes to business, spending half their time in sleeping and the rest in doing nothing, a rent-charge and dead unnecessary weight on the earth, as Hesiod saith; afraid, as we judged, of offending or lessening their paunch. Others were masked, disguised, and so oddly dressed that it would have done you good to have seen them.
 
There's a saying, and several ancient sages write, that the skill of nature appears wonderful in the pleasure which she seems to have taken in the configuration of sea-shells, so great is their variety in figures, colours, streaks, and inimitable shapes. I protest the variety we perceived in the dresses of the gastrolatrous coquillons was not less. They all owned Gaster for their supreme god, adored him as a god, offered him sacrifices as to their omnipotent deity, owned no other god, served, loved, and honoured him above all things.
 
You would have thought that the holy apostle spoke of those when he said (Phil. chap. 3), Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly. Pantagruel compared them to the Cyclops Polyphemus, whom Euripides brings in speaking thus: I only sacrifice to myself--not to the gods--and to this belly of mine, the greatest of all the gods.
 
 
 
 
From Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francis Rabelais,
(trans. Thomas Urquhart and Peter Motteux),


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Comments:

07/16/2009 - nellie

this is nellie. i was checkin' out yur sight and LOVE it. i love your pictures w/ the pen and ink. escpecially the one w/ that girl and a lot of scwiggly lines. sry if my spelling sucks but whatever

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