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2013.05.25 Gilded Birds – A snapshot of contemporary ideals of beauty

Gilded Birds

A snapshot of contemporary ideals of beauty

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Simon Keenlyside, baritone, on his Venus figurine pendant.

GB Tell me why you chose this.

SK I was always fascinated with the earliest artifacts and paintings made by modern humans, from up to 50 000 years ago. One can only imagine the power that totemic objects might have had tens of thousands of years before writing was invented: the earliest known Flute 38 000 years ago, or a reindeer bone, broken but still playable and possessing the holes that would indicate its tonality. I wonder how it sounded? All those Paleolithic paintings and the stories that they nearly tell! And then?

Then there are the Venus figurines. Nobody quite knows what they are. They’re called fertility symbols. It would have taken resources and plentiful food for a woman to attain such massive proportions in her hips, breasts and posterior. The gathering of food would have been an indicator of power in a family or tribe. All of this, however, must remain a best guess.

And then I watched the birth of my own children on the kitchen floor and nothing was ever the same for me again. After that, language itself was suddenly utterly inadequate to express the maelstrom of incomprehension and wonder at what I’d witnessed. At that point I felt much like Michelangelo’s figures in the roof of the Sistine chapel – arms outstretched and fingers almost touching. At THAT point I also felt kinship with the people who made the ancient figurines.

GB Do you have your own theory about why the figurines were made?
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read the complete interview on Kerry Shaw’s blog

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