The Ophelia series
I started painting the “Ophelia” series in 2015, when I wanted a break from doing figurative abstraction for 35+ years. At that time, I was still teaching art in high school, and had become accustomed to hearing firsthand of the heartaches and depression of my female students when their boyfriends invariably did not return their affections. Shakespeare’s ‘Ophelia’ tragically became despondent from her unrequited love of Hamlet. So much so, she drowned herself by falling into a river.
My contemporary ‘Ophelia’ falls into a shallow creek, and doesn’t drown. She contemplates her survival. She is alternately sad, depressed, hurt, angry, yet finds the will to go on and survive. She is beautiful in her youthful independence, and realizes she no longer needs a Prince to find meaning for her existence. I didn't design my figures to be sexual, but resolute/vulnerable. I like the contrast between solid figures and the natural elements or water, light, leaf, and stone. Occasionally, the floral patterns in the model's dress contrasts with the natural patterns I find in nature. Ophelia's suicide because of unrequited love is switched to strength in isolation, beauty in silence, and grace amidst nature.
I completed forty-one 24” x 36” paintings in the “Ophelia” series, and it has been my hope to exhibit the entire series before it is broken up. Up to this point, various opportunities to show the series have fallen through because of fears that it would be provocative or misinterpreted about sexual assault. There have also been concerns voiced that it is exploitive to women. As I related above, that is not my intention at all. I think a need for dialogue to reframe ‘Ophelia’ in contemporary terms, will help viewers talk about teenage depression from bad relationships, being manipulated (by contemporary ‘Hamlets’), and positive body image.
The "Ophelia" series as a whole was shown for the first time and only time in its entirety on July 29, 2022 at ARTFUL in the Coventry PEACE Building, 2843 Washington Blvd., Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118.