Requiem For Dionysos
Background, 2003

In The Bacchae of Euripides a strange contagion is sweeping the land of Thebes. The king suspects a foreigner is inciting the people to madness and in his zeal for control he vows to uproot the evildoers.

Dionysos, bearer of wine and joy! Dionysos, bearer of chaos and madness!

The bacchae, his followers, are driven to wild revelry thus threatening the power of the state.

The only logic the enemy understands is force. Only force. We will cut off the beasts head and kill it.

And hydra-headed-like it returns.


Rationalism is a great power. But corrupted by its need for order and its desire to assert itself everywhere and always it leads to destruction.

Tiresias the aged prophet foresees bad things to come. It doesn't take a prophet now to see. We have palpably before us an unbalanced rationalism at war with all disagreement and all dissent, in the name of control and security. It doesn't take a prophet to see that such a task is doomed to failure because of the paucity of its own vision.

But neither is the way to avoid disaster easy. Shall we all put on fawn skins and ivy and take up the thyrsus? Who among us is not tempted in their own being to crush and to control? The alternative is perhaps madness. Then again it may be ecstasy. This is hardly a foreign policy brief.

The object is neither to exhibit a clear description of the play nor to give a didactic statement of politics. There exists both a war within and, more and more, a war without.


Requiem For Dionysos, (2003) is a continuous image print assembled from five mixed linocut and woodcut prints bound together. It is printed in an edition of twenty. Ten copies are bound and ten sets are separate prints. The prints shown here are linocuts with some woodcut elements as well. There are five images each made with four separate plates measuring 24" x 18". The continuous image measures 24" x 90". Each individual print is printed from four separate linoleum or woodcut blocks. Price: $2000. Individual Print Price: $500.

Requiem for Dionysos is inspired by Euripides' play the Bacchae and uses it as a launching point for a treatment of the US war on terrorism. In the play the king of Thebes suspects a foreigner is inciting the people to madness and in his zeal for control he vows to uproot the evildoers. Like the Bush regime in the US the king believes the only logic the enemy understands is force. The king?s own hubris in the end leads to the destruction of himself and his empire.

The five panels of the print are titled individually - Prophet, Tocsin, The King, Sanctimony and Requiem. A quote from The Bacchae of Euripides accompanies each. While no attempt has been made to tell the story of the Bacchae in pictures the accompanying text does have resonance with the images.

In Prophet, - "I have come here from the east, veiling my godhead in human form,"- a headless man holds a television with a screaming head inside. Our source of information - a headless man. But the message of the text is ambivalent and points to several interpretations. The prophet is at once a metaphor for mass media and also a prophet like John the Baptist calling out for attention. And again "veiling my godhead" suggests the secrecy of terrorism.

Tocsin carries the theme of torture and detention with the pointed message from the text "You are a man to make men fear. Fearful will be your end."

The King - "Reports have been brought to me," - he listens to the news brought to him by victims and sycophants. He clutches the olive branch of peace in one hand and the bundle of sticks of fascism in the other. He exists in an armed camp surrounded by a fortress while his army carries out his missions.

In Sanctimony - "This Bacchic arrogance encroaches on us like a rising tide," - three world religions bound together with a rope argue and point in opposite directions while a woman stands with head bowed pleading for help. Fighter Jets fly overhead.

In Requiem - "I now cover your head, your torn and bloodstained limbs," - the results are seen. A stadium half destroyed stands as a metaphor for culture, while a violinist plays a tune for a half buried audience. This book was completed before the war in Iraq began but the ramifications of cultural destruction continue.

Dionysos the god of wine and joy is also the bearer of chaos and madness. He has two faces. Without him humanity is locked in a joyless life of drudgery. He reveals the depths of the soul through madness and ecstasy. Reason unrestrained by humility is madness. The irrational untethered to the ritual of tradition is chaos. Rationalism received its greatest impetus in Ancient Greece, but the limits of rationalism were also explored in the great literature of that period. In this print I have used the text of Euripides as a touchstone for our own battling dualities.

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