Ceres was the Roman Earth goddess, and the embodiment of the love a mother bears for her child. She was honored for the gift of the harvest, the fruit of the soil, and was represented by corn. As legend has it, Ceres’ daughter, Proserpine, was kidnapped by Pluto, god of the underworld, to be his bride. Ceres searched but could not find her. Eventually, in despair, she refused to let plants grow, and people began to die of hunger. Pluto then admitted he had held captive her daughter and would allow her to return to her mother if she had not eaten the food of the Dead. However, she had eaten six seeds of a pomegranate. She could then only return home but for six months of every year, one month for every seed. Her parting during the winter months put Ceres into mourning, causing plants to lose their leaves, seeds to lie dormant under the ground, where nothing grows until spring when Proserpine is reunited with her mother.
In New York in 2001, I began a series of paintings using corn kernels. Genesis was my starting point, a subject I’d explored in past works. The seeds represented unrealized potential. In large-scale, textured, meditative paintings influenced by Rothko, I explored that strange state between being and non-being, before a new life declared and defined itself. In an in-between, late-winter state myself, having not-so-long-ago experienced the birth of my daughter, Ise, and, in the same breath, the death of my marriage, I was also fighting for custody of my daughter. This all in the midst of 9/11 and its aftermath, while living eight blocks from Ground Zero. Out of the despair of this period, from the debris of my own personal life and that of those around me, I found hope in the metaphor of the tiny seeds that make up the texture, and, in the paintings themselves, a moment of promise, peace and light.