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REBIRTH: SUZANNE BENTON’S “PERSEPHONE AND DEMETER”

May 26, 2010

Suzanne Benton and Persephone performing at Pierre Menard Gallery on the occasion of Margaret Fuller's Bicentennial Birthday

Who sees the meaning of the flower uprooted in the ploughed field? The ploughman who does not look beyond its boundaries and does not raise his eyes from the ground ? No — but the poet who sees that field in its relations with the universe, and looks oftener to the sky than on the ground. Only the dreamer shall understand realities, though, in truth, his dreaming must not be out of proportion to his waking!

— Margaret Fuller, Free Hope p. 127

Margaret Fuller was fascinated by the myth of Persephone and Demeter.  I overheard two scholars discussing how she tried to encourage Emerson to participate in some re-enactment of the myth and interjected: “Oh, the origin of American performance art!”  Combining Margaret Fuller’s dramatic talents, knowledge and mercurial mind would have made shamanic performance a natural extension of her “Conversations.”  She clearly sought, in her gift for conversation, to transport her audience/collaborators on Mercury’s wings up to heaven and down to Hades.

Nancy Spero's scroll incorporating the gender opposites into a reworking of the myth of the Garden of Eden, the phallus/serpents on the tree attuned with astrological timing: the Yod represented by words

This fascinating piece of American history makes the Pierre Menard Gallery apt for an exhibition incorporating the  underworld descent into its theme.  So when Suzanne told me her Persephone mask was available, I rejoiced.  And not only that, she agreed to do her marvelous Persephone/Demeter performance for the opening.

Black Madonna (Grace Roselli) Gives Birth to Woman in the 21st Century (Aldo Tambellini's premiere of his 1957 Pregnant Woman); Pierre Menard Gallery, Cambridge, MA

To do her performance in this setting, replete with so many fertility symbols, after I conjured up Margaret Fuller through a ritual at the precise time of the opening, could only mean one thing: a conscious re-visioning, over the course of this exhibition, of the underworld myth that Fuller dramatized in her life!

Suzanne Benton performing Persephone and Demeter before Tanya Ragir's "Sacred Geometry" Pierre Menard Gallery, May 23, 2010

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