HOW THREE ARTISTS ARE EXPLORING MYTHOLOGY AND RACE. In re-examining historical narratives and classical stories, these artists are creating images that speak on multiple levels to the experiences of being Black and female.
Whether or not you believe in a literal Garden of Eden, the biblical story in which it appears has fed opinions about the nature of gender relationships, human sin and the consequences of disobedience. “The Odyssey” has lessons about life’s journey, weathering storms, heeding warnings and returning home. Odin, the one-eyed Norse god of war and death, is a symbol of self-sacrifice for wisdom.
Many of the world’s most recognizable and influential stories come from Western culture — classical mythology, Norse mythology, Judeo-Christian narratives — and the majority of them illuminate the heroic efforts of men or the cultural experiences of white Western figures. Of course, women and people of color appear in folklore, myths and legends across cultures, but they are less often depicted as heroic protagonists in the prominent, globally renown tales. (Black women, especially, are rarely portrayed as offering anything redemptive, or as spiritually or intellectually conscious enough to positively influence others.) When they are present, their ethnicity is questioned or diminished, as with Andromeda in Greek mythology. It’s argued she was a Black character before being whitewashed over the years.