Fallen Angels: a new gallery
Updated: 6 days ago
One day working with divine model Lucy.Artmodel, as we moved up from the darkness of a grimy, hot basement, via a deep staircase lit with a sombre, grey light, and finally relocating to the far side of the building, bathed with bright, diffuse light, and as Lucy summoned a pantheon of feelings from one pose to another, it struck me that I needed to structure the shoot carefully.
My collaborator Lucy is an expert at conveying emotional complexity; she says, "…through flowing physical expression, my work aims to connect with others by embodying raw human emotion. I strive to capture the mood and aesthetic pervading the spaces I work within." Organising the sets to showcase her skills and do her work justice was the challenge.
The three act structure is the basis of all classical story-telling, so shooting and then curating a shoot in this way yields considerable flexibility on the cutting room floor.. It occurred to me during editing that the three part set echoed a great work of literature, with themes that resonated at an allegorical level. One of the greatest works in literature, the Divine Comedy (Divina Commedia) is a narrative poem by Italian Dante Alighieri (1265 - 1321). It describes Dante's travels through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.
The title for this gallery, Fallen Angels, comes from Cantos 7and 8 in Inferno (Hell). After many adventures, Dante and his guide Virgil reached the infernal City of Dis. Dis housed the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth circles of Hell. The city's walls were guarded by the fallen angels of the Christian tradition and the Furies, avenging spirits of the Greco-Roman tradition.
From fallen angels to fallen women, perhaps? 'Fallen women' is an archaic term that reflected one of the many ways that then contemporary society diminished women. It described a woman who had, as the British Victorians put it euphamistically, "lost her innocence" and had fallen from the grace of God. It seems barely credible that the painters and sculptors of the time employed so-called fallen women to portray lofty ideals of beauty, grace and the divine -- or what we might today call outdated and even offensive female stereotypes. These ironies and nuances underpin this series.
And the good Master said: “Even now, my Son,
The city draweth near whose name is Dis,
With the grave citizens, with the great throng.”
And I: “Its mosques already, Master, clearly
Within there in the valley I discern
Vermilion, as if issuing from the fire
They were.” And he to me: “The fire eternal
That kindles them within makes them look red,
As thou beholdest in this nether Hell.”
Then we arrived within the moats profound,
That circumvallate that disconsolate city;
The walls appeared to me to be of iron.
Not without making first a circuit wide,
We came unto a place where loud the pilot
Cried out to us, “Debark, here is the entrance.”
More than a thousand at the gates I saw
Out of the Heavens rained down, who angrily
Were saying, “Who is this that without death
Goes through the kingdom of the people dead ?”
And my sagacious Master made a sign
Of wishing secretly to speak with them.
A little then they quelled their great disdain,
And said: “Come thou alone, and he begone
Who has so boldly entered these dominions.
Let him return alone by his mad road;
Try, if he can; for thou shalt here remain,
Who hast escorted him through such dark regions.”
Think, Reader, if I was discomforted
At utterance of the accursed words;
For never to return here I believed.
“O my dear Guide, who more than seven times
Hast rendered me security, and drawn me
From imminent peril that before me stood,
Do not desert me,” said I, “thus undone;
And if the going farther be denied us,
Let us retrace our steps together swiftly.”
And that Lord, who had led me thitherward,
Said unto me: “Fear not; because our passage
None can take from us, it by Such is given.
But here await me, and thy weary spirit
Comfort and nourish with a better hope;
For in this nether world I will not leave thee.”
So onward goes and there abandons me
My Father sweet, and I remain in doubt,
For No and Yes within my head contend.
I could not hear what he proposed to them;
But with them there he did not linger long,
Ere each within in rivalry ran back.
They closed the portals, those our adversaries,
On my Lord’s breast, who had remained without
And turned to me with footsteps far between.
His eyes cast down, his forehead shorn had he
Of all its boldness, and he said, with sighs,
“Who has denied to me the dolesome houses ?”
And unto me: “Thou, because I am angry,
Fear not, for I will conquer in the trial,
Whatever for defence within be planned.
This arrogance of theirs is nothing new;
For once they used it at less secret gate,
Which finds itself without a fastening still.
O’er it didst thou behold the dead inscription;
And now this side of it descends the steep,
Passing across the circles without escort,
One by whose means the city shall be opened.”
Translated by Longfellow [MLA (7th ed.), Longfellow, and Jonathan Knight. Dante's Inferno. New York: Ballantine Books, 2010. Print
In Paradise Lost, by John Milton (1608 - 1674), fallen angels fell out with God, describing him as a questionable tyrant, and established their own kingdom in the depths of hell. They built a palace, played music and debated freely. Nevertheless, Milton portrayed them as lacking divine guidance, and they turned their kingdom into a place of suffering.
Is this Heaven or Hell, or somewhere in between? Is our subject a fallen angel, or is she instead perhaps Dante's guide Beatrice, who represented divine revelation, theology, faith and grace? Does she represent your lost soul, or perhaps mine?
Only you can decide. See the Fallen Angels gallery now.