PRIVS • DOMINATVS

PROJECT • DESCRIPTION
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PriusDominatus is a project honoring the ancient Greek contributions to modern democratic-style civilisation.

In Latin, "Prius Dominatus" is "Before Domination". This project is a study of tyranny, defined literally as "the rule by fear", and the contrasting leadership styles of matriarchy and patriarchy. Set in a fictional classical period setting of a time in Hellenistic Greece just prior to the conquering by Rome.

PriusDominatus invites the viewer to ponder the fall of Democracy, the nature of the sexes, and the influence of fear. This large-format oil painting re-imagines the moment Rome conquered Greece and fear overcame reason.

The United States of America is founded on the Democratic principles of mutual respect and consent passed down from Ancient Greek principles. This work combines my experience of these concepts into an allegorical accumulation. Tyranny was the greatest aversion and rallying cry in colonial America, and while the aversion has been modified to accommodate modern principles, it yet rings. My concept embodies this important truth, and adds into it all the scientific accumulation of human observation since ancient times; these concepts of inalienable rights as inherent to the importance of the understanding of why fear is the deadliest form of manipulation and oppression, and why observation and agreement in conjunction with the experience of every individual is crucial to the survival of humanity.

At some point in ancient history, Tyranny, the "ruling with fear", overcame the participatory rule of reason, discussion, debate, and Democracy. The force and fury of a few came to dominate- and drowned out the compassion of the masses, and indeed, inundated the will of the individual. Eventually, an Empire of the will of one man enslaved the population of most of the inhabited continents of the planet Earth. In recorded history the hatch-ling notion of the rule by reason and agreement of all, was tentatively structured in ancient Greece. It was immediately devoured by a crouching dragon-fire of rage and the irrational attempt by one man to think for all.

PriusDominatus takes one back to this moment and searches blindly through pre-recorded history to find notions of a time before Empire; a time that had a civilization so different in contrast, so opposite in nature, that it inevitably inspired a vehement reactionary, tyrannical fight, which sent groups of men forever screaming up a violent path of sexist, misogynistic, masochistic, sadist, impossible, and apparently unsustainable heights.

Heights they climbed forged the Gods of Olympus-- a small, esoteric group embodying all arrogance, aristocracy, myopia and greed. Later it would alter those they re-named, so that they became unrecognizable, before ultimately murdering them to discover two new Gods to worship-- Gods of extreme distance and depravity-- and a new structure of government as well, defined by the extremest nature of the worst of the two.

This Devil defined authority and authoritarian nature in no more empirical a fashion, and charged categorical observation and communication with vengeance, censorship and imprisonment. Indeed, the legacy of Empire is that same pure, unbridled insanity. For all who attempt it; from its imitated form in those participant nuclear family units, to all of bureaucratic composition itself; have inevitably gone "king-crazy", and as unmanageably mad as old King George. Humanity may yet learn directly to end that barbaric effort of the attempt to burden one man with the lives of many, and in doing so, surrender the impossible practice which leads all humankind to believe they must live and think as one.

From the paranoia of Emperor Qi, through the brutality of Caligula, to the madness of King George III, this repeating horror eventually inspired a renaissance of reason; the rise of the Enlightenment birthed a fledgling new force upon whose principles a new country was founded -- and, on trembling young limbs, America stands still reeling.

Feel free to contribute to the completion of this project.

CAST
Photographer Erik Oginski
photographer erik oginski
Photographer Erik Oginski

"Erik Oginski is a Los Angeles-based photographer whose work currently focuses mainly on editorial, events and street photography. Erik has a background in journalism and spent 13 years working in broadcast news before transitioning into marketing. Photography has played a significant role throughout his career and his work has been featured in international publications and media."
-StudioOG.com-

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Model Karley Blake as Athena
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Model Karley Blake
(Makeup artist/Hair Stylist Brenna of Brenna Bones Artistry)

"Karley Blake is a model and actress from Los Angeles, CA. Her main focus is on art projects, but her portfolio also encompasses fashion, commercial, and editorial modeling. In her spare time, she volunteers and advocates for animal welfare."

Model Maura Evelyn as Prostrate Female
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Model Maura Evelyn
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PROGRESS
Athena Study from Reshoot

The success of the study from the reshoot was resounding and cannot be overstated. Using the newly developed wet-fabric simulation process with fabric soaked in a high concentration mix of polyethylene glycol and water developed by myself and Erik, a perfect approximation of Classical Hellenistic drapery was acheived throughout the photography to painting conversion process. This large-scale oil study was painted in a style in imitation of surviving Roman murals and frescos, especially seen in the wet-in-wet brushwork of the fabric.

athena reshoot study
Athena reshoot study.
athena reshoot owl
Athena reshoot owl.
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Athena reshoot study head detail.
Athena Reshoot

In order to better capture a Hellenistic period sculptural 'wet fabric' style in the statue of Athena, further research demanded a reshoot of the Athena character. After several studies of the initial photograph of Athena it became evident that the anatomy of figure would become obscured upon conversion into a sculptural form. Using Nike Athena as a reference point, a new process was developed to treat certain fabric to best approximate the delicate transparency as well as the intricate wet folds clinging to the skin surface.

"The hypothesis about the Voyerism of Greek males may be borne out by the emergence, in the second quarter of the fifth century B.C., of large-scale paintings intended for public viewing that depicted women in transparent or wet, clinging drapery."

Pg. 144; Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves; Sarah B. Pomeroy

nike samothrace
Nike Samothrace By Lyokoï88 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Prostrate Female
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Oil Study of Maura Evelyn as 'prostrate female' from photo by Erik Oginski

The centerpiece of the composition and central figure is informally referred to as the 'prostrate female'. Both the name and languid pose denote stereotypical female vulnerability in extreme and dramatic gesture; inherent in and complimentary to; the diametric opposition displayed in this work's concept dynamic between male and female, matriarchy and patriarchy, as displayed by the two main characters of this piece. This figure, with bared neck, exposed midsection, and lack of firm or natural support and connection to the very ground beneath her, exemplifies a familiar female vantage constructed within a patriarchal society. This common stereotype and socio-economic construct best exhibits a universally relatable concept: that of one human's domination over another. In the simplest and most extreme sense, this pose is instinctively evocative of one who has been removed of dignity, grace, and formality; it is extreme submission. This artistic rendering however, adds a twist.

Hellenistic funerary wall painting
Hellenistic funerary wall painting

In ancient classical painting, the male figure is always colored with a deep bronze skin-tone, as seen in surviving wall-paintings and tile mosaics from ancient Hellenistic Greece and Rome. Women are painted using a series of light gray tones and are much more pale in comparison to the deep, reddish-brown coloring used to indicate males.

"The Homeric epithet "white-armed" and Bronze Age frescoes that show women with white skin and males with suntanned flesh both testify to the indoor orientation of women's work."

Pg. 30; Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves; Sarah B. Pomeroy

"A White complexion was considered attractive, since it proved that a woman was wealthy enough not to go out in the sun."

Pg.83; Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves; Sarah B. Pomeroy

"Nowadays, there seems little doubt that sexual segregation did at least exist as an upper-class ideal. Xenophon ('Oeconomicus 7.30' (italics)) produces a classic statement of it when he puts into the mouth of Ischomachus the words, 'S it is deeply for a woman to remain at home and not to remain out of doors; but for a man to stay inside, instead of devoting himself to outdoor pursuits, is disgraceful'.

Pg. 135; Women in Ancient Greece, Sue Blundell

This is a result of ancient tendencies toward sexual distinction both in everyday life and in art which is challenged by the foundational concept of PriusDominatus.

"More pervasively, since democracy created a growing dichotomy between activities which were public and collective, and those which were private and individual, it accentuated the disparity between males and females. Increasingly, men in the democratic state were defined by their active involvement in political life, and women were defined by their exclusion from that sphere."

Pg. 129; Women in Ancient Greece, Sue Blundell

The 'prostrate female' displays a posture of inherent weakness -- while at the same time being colored in a tone usually reserved for males. Men spent their days outdoors in the heat of the sun and women were 'kept' indoors.

"While there is general agreement that politically and legally the condition of a woman in Classical Athens was one of inferiority, the question of her social status has generated a major controversy and has become the focus of most recent studies of Athenian women. Opinions range from one extreme to the other. Some scholars hold that women were despised and kept in Oriental seclusion, while others contend that they were respected and enjoyed freedom comparable to that of most women throughout the centuries-- we may add, "at least before the advent of the women's movement." Still others think that women were kept secluded, but in that seclusion were esteemed and ruled the house.

The first position is succinctly stated by F.A. Wright in a book published in 1923 and obviously influenced by the wave of feminism which culminated in the passage of the Nineteenth Ammendment. This book was reissued in 1969 and now appears quaint in its blatant polemicism:

'the fact is-- and it is well to state it plainly-- that the Greek world perished from one main cause, a low ideal of womanhood and a degradation of women which found expression both in literature and in social life. The position of women and the position of slaves-- for the two classes went together-- were the canker-spots which, left unsealed, brought about the decay first of Athens and then of Greece.'"

Pg. 58; Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves; Sarah B. Pomeroy

"Women of all social classes worked mainly indoors or near the house in order to guard it."

Pg.72; Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves; Sarah B. Pomeroy

"More pervasively, since democracy created a growing dichotomy between activities which were public and collective, and those which were private and individual, it accentuated the disparity between males and females. Increasingly, men in the democratic state were defined by their active involvement in political life, and women were defined by their exclusion from that sphere."

Pg. 129; Women in Ancient Greece, Sue Blundell

"Nowadays, there seems little doubt that sexual segregation did at least exist as an upper-class ideal. Xenophon (Oeconomicus 7.30) produces a classic statement of it when he puts into the mouth of Ischomachus the words, 'S it is deeply for a woman to remain at home and not to remain out of doors; but for a man to stay inside, instead of devoting himself to outdoor pursuits, is disgraceful'.

Pg. 135; Women in Ancient Greece, Sue Blundell

The exaggerated musculature, especially in the thighs, adds another indicator of strength further complicating the paradox, challenging the ancient and modern sexual stereotype. The archetype for the pose specifically, is also an affront to age-old assumptions about power.

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Antonio Ciseri. The Deposition of Christ (c. 1883)By SIKART dictionary and database, Public Domain
Peter Paul Rubens. The Descent from the Cross (1617–18), (Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille)
Peter Paul Rubens. The Descent from the Cross (1617–18), (Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille) By Photo taken by Remi Jouan, Mars 2007, Public Domain
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Fra Angelico. Deposition of Christ, Fra Angelico (1437-1440). Tempera on wood, 176 x 185 cm. Museo di San Marco, Florence By The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain
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Caravaggio. The Entombment of Christ (1604). Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome By The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain

The historical reference for this character is not only Hellenistic period Greek and Roman painting, but also a popular Renaissance motif. This pose is an interpretation of the religious theme popularized by the Catholic church known as the 'Descent from the Cross', whereby Jesus is supported and cradled from the cross by a devoted group of his followers. Here, a more modern observation is revealed, and the female -- poised as the epitome of vulnerability and sacrifice -- levitates unsupported. This gender-swapping of the typically male sacrificial role further challenges ancient assumptions regarding domination and the interpersonal gender power dynamic.

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Rogier van der Weyden. The Descent from the Cross. (c. 1435) Oil on oak panel, 220 x 262 cm Museo del Prado, Madrid By The Prado in Google Earth: Home - 7th level of zoom, JPEG compression quality: Photoshop 9., Public Domain
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Jean Jouvenet, The Descent from the Cross (1697). Musée du Louvre, ParisBy Own work, Public Domain

Levitation of the figure references modern technological innovation as the inevitability of Her salvation. She floats upwards, bisected by a red laser beam to reinforce visually the presumed harm to which she is subjected. This concept is taken directly from a little known theoretical spacecraft propulsion method called 'photonic propulsion'.

Photonic Propulsion on YouTube

Photonic Propulsion powers a spacecraft with a laser beam and solar panels. It is theorized that such a spacecraft would be lighter, needing no fuel storage, and traveling faster due to the nature of the medium, arrive at Mars in just three days.

An actual NASA test in a lab on YouTube

In this metaphorical interpretation, skin and body surface area of the 'prostrate female' represent solar absorbtion material which generates power. The laser beam appears viscerally as a wound, but completes the power cycle of the metaphor when united with scientific understanding, raising this craft eventually above and beyond the looming power of tyranny and patriarchy as it is represented; the hope of all humankind.

Greek Photographer Photographs Acropolis

Greek Photographer Christosomos Kamberlis, Photographer and Travel Advisor from Trip and Trail (tripandtrail.com), travelled to the Acropolis in Athens, Greece to photograph the background view for PriusDominatus.

Acropolis at Dusk by Christosomos Kamberlis
'Acropolis at Dusk' by Christosomos Kamberlis
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Celtic Athena
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Oil Study of Karley Blake as Celtic Athena from photo by Erik Oginski

In this version of Athena, one must concede that Greek civilisation discovered an increasing tolerance for violence through the Roman period, and may have been the cause for eventual Roman conquest. For this variation, Athena clings more to her legacy of wisdom than of war, holds the torch of freedom, and is companioned by an owl of wisdom.

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Athena with Owl on Ancient Greek Coin By cgb.fr - , CC BY-SA 3.0

She remains un-armored, having no Aegis, a shield bearing the decapitated head of snake-haired Medusa; leaning on no spear, and she holds the torch of freedom in its stead. The Aegis is said to be carried by both Athena and Zeus, and is sometimes depicted as an animal skin, a serpent or serpent skin, or a tattoo or broach. This symbol originated as a response to the age of tyrants in ancient Greek history, which were overthrown by democracy, The Aegis was a reminder of the power of the tyrant, the effect of fear on a person when applied from an authoritative vantage, and a reminder that by the greatest power and wisdom, it should never again be applied to abuse a population. Medusa is an important aspect of that power, as the fear of the sight of her could freeze a person. A wild predatorial animal causes a similar "deer in the headlights", "flight or fright" reaction used by centuries of tyrants, aristocrats, bosses, law enforcement, and parents to intentionally disable and control their prey; to reveal true intentions, intimidate, interrogate, and dominate. Wielding the Aegis funtions to supply courage, give hope and confidence by the mere thought of the gods using it in battle as their talisman and charm. For generations the power of the Aegis taught and reminded the opressed, traumatzed, and abused, to resist, endure, and take heart -- that they might be granted such a power in their own trials of life.

In this depiction, however, there is no tyranny, no deprivation, no ruling class, none of Plato's grand Guardians. The gods had not become personified to forever battle reminders of injustice in the mind. In this age of travel and wealth and equality, this time before the contest between the sexes, uncommon conquest and purposeful degradation; this time before the game of dominance and war, gods were nothing more than statues of foreigners illustrating their unique characteristics, as well as an intuitive visual code to locate their progenitors geographically.

Aegis
Aegis, serpent version.
By commons:User:Shii, edited by 83d40m - Edited version of File:Douris cup Jason Vatican 16545.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Aegis, shield version.

The torch is referenced directly from the French Neoclassical Statue of Liberty. Not visible in this study, these new accoutrement, along with the traditional semi-transparent fabric of her tunic, and her high-wound sandals, combine to form a "Celtic Athena".

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Athena By Tetraktys - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
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Attic red-figure kylix showing Athena slaying the Gigante Enkelados (c. 550–500 BC). By Oltos? (Louvre), circle of Psiax (Mertens) - Marie-Lan Nguyen (2007). Image renamed from Image:Pallas Enceladus LouvreCA3662.jpg, Public Domain

Celtic Athena represents a theory that before Gods were Gods, they were signposts to unite and welcome a global trade network of vastly differing and specific nationalities. As in ancient Rome, a sign for the Fishmonger, was simply a painted fish.

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Fishmonger shop in Rome. romeartlover.it

This enabled muli-linguistic commerce directly, with no diplomat, translator, or intermediary faction present. The story of Athena, as springing from her father Zeus' forehead, may be cartographic prose, describing relative global positioning and location. It could be a detailed desciption of an important trading partner, easily remembered and transferrable through time and generations. In a similar light, Athena's owl companion is a symbol of wisdom, but it is also a regionally specific identifier honoring the great Norse shipbuilders.

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Athena springing from the head of Zeus By User:Bibi Saint-Pol - Own work, Public Domain

The Tawny owl found in the southern region of Sweden, Norway, and Finland, in the great bay of the Baltic Sea, where ships, built on commission, and launched to sail around the globe in every nation's fleet, along the pre-ancient trade routes. In this day, not built for war, but for trade. The Tawny owl is perched upon the carved bow of a later-era Norse warship to further reinforce this regional connection. So in this version, Athena is a welcoming beacon of trade for Celtic peoples, and the Parthenon is a foreign embassy.

tawny owl
Tawny Owl