REBIRTH: SUZANNE BENTON’S “PERSEPHONE AND DEMETER”May 26, 2010
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.
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.
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!