June 24, 2022

Who Is Catching Whom?

         Any time you hear a story, it’s wise to consider who is telling it.  “History is written by the victors” is the most obvious reminder, but every story has a particular perspective depending on the teller.  The idea of a sailor catching a mermaid for a wife may be an old favorite, but we always think of it from the same point of view: the human, not the merperson; the male, not the female.  And this perspective has the effect of making the human male the active protagonist while the mermaid becomes the passive prize to be won.  Consider all those selkie stories discussed in this prior post, in which the selkie is forced onto land when her sea skin is stolen by the human man.  Well, story spinner that I am, it is obvious to me that the mermaid, too, would have a point of view.  And feminist that I am, I’m all about relationships that are equitable and mutually satisfactory.  If a fisherman has caught a mermaid, this strikes me as pleasing and romantic only if the mermaid has equally caught the fisherman.
        (I will note that “The Little Mermaid” is told from the mermaid’s point of view with the mermaid as the protagonist, but still, it’s hardly a healthy, equal relationship.)
        (I will also note that you can enjoy some other block prints of merfolk here.)
        I remembered an interesting piece by Boris Artzybasheff that has neither top nor bottom, as it can be viewed equally either way.  (You can see that piece here.)  This idea struck me as perfect for my mermaid and her fisherman (or, of course, my fisherman and his mermaid).  I actually made a little sketch of the idea a number of years ago, but only came back to it last month when I was looking for ideas of blocks to carve during my spring shows.  I had fun on the pattern and texture of the fisherman’s sweater, but otherwise it’s a fairly simple piece: cheerful, friendly, a little cartoonish in style, and printed in a mix of bright watery colors just for fun.  I made the design balanced and symmetrical, and I labelled it with the title on one edge and the signature on the opposite so that both orientations are equal.
        The real complication comes when I go to mat, frame, and display.  As soon as the piece is hung on a wall, a decision has to be made.  Who is catching whom?  I’ve matted one of the edition, and put the label on the back oriented to the side, so as to determine neither a top nor a bottom.  But the framed piece has to have a top.  Which way up would you hang it?  Or would you switch it every once in a while and see whether anyone notices?  Or, of course, you could always get two (they’re not expensive - ha!) and hang one each way.  What story will you tell about this happy pair?

[Picture: Big Catch, rubber block print by AEGN, 2022.]


Kristin said...

I think two framed together, one each top and bottom.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

That would be fun - and boost my sales, as well! ;)