Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Last Painting in Series of Eight ~ Swan Song

This last painting in the series of eight based on birds is about Swan. The largest of water birds, Swan enjoys a long life and stays with one mate for the duration, which may be why, in Hindu tradition, Swan represents the perfect union.

Since ancient times Swan has been thought of as a powerful totem, standing for beauty, grace, harmony, love, purity of soul, poetic inspiration; a symbol of muses and nymphs, associated with Heaven and connected to the Great Spirit. Swan feathers are used as healing tools. Figureheads of Swan have adorned the bows of ships for good luck and safe journeys, Aphrodite's chariot is pulled by a team of the birds and Zeus seduced Leda in the form of Swan, an example of the shape-shifting attributes from human to bird and vice versa. We think of Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake, with all its feathered, dancing maidens and Hans Christian Anderson's Ugly Duckling, the message of which is that our true beauty is within. But, look for quotes about Swan and you may be struck by how often the bird is referred to as a symbol of death. Many, including Chaucer, Tennyson, di Vinci, Coleridge and particularly Shakespeare use Swan in poetry and prose as an expression of the last beautiful gasp before death; the Swan Song.

Swan song; a metaphorical phrase for a final gesture, effort or performance; refers to the ancient belief that swans sing a beautiful song in the moment just before death.

There is much discussion and some debate about the origin of this belief that Swan sings a song upon expiring. Scientifically speaking, this may be because the Whooper Swan has been observed to make a noise as it dies. The sound is thought to be due to the bird having an extremely long tracheal loop through which air flows when its lungs expel a last breath.

How did I apply that concept to this painting? Just in the title, not because I'm retiring, or, not because I'm expiring any time in the near future, as far as I know, but just because this is the last in the series. There is not much in the imagery of the painting that expresses Swan, save the illusion to two black arching wings in the upper left hand corner. I did think of light and grace, creating the textured background of many pale patterns from block prints layered over one another.

Swan Song
Acrylic, charcoal, ink, painted paper collage, thread, oil pastel
24" X 18" X 2"

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