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Demeter/Persephone I   Oil and photo emulsion on canvas 28" X 30"   Read More...
I read, many years ago, that when the anthropologist, Franz Boas, asked the Kwakiutl Indians of the Northeast why they carved animals on their totem poles, they responded that animals were “good to think with.” I loved that response. To me, as to countless artists before me, myth, like religion, is good to think with. Myths are a communal gateway into the unconscious. They operate like dreams, but unlike an individual’s dreams, they’re the creation of an entire people over time. When we read one that engages us, some part of our inner life is sewn into the communal psyche and we dream the dream forward.  
So now to Demeter/Persephone. It’s thought that by the time this myth first appears in Greek culture it was already ancient. The versions are endless as are the localities which put their imprint on the stories. I can’t do justice to the vast literature but I can review the main story and say what aspect of it draws me in.
Demeter, sister of Zeus and Hades, is, among other things, a goddess of human organization, specifically agriculture. She fecundates what man measures out and plants. She civilizes. The word “meter” in her name gives a hint of this function. She’s also the mother of Persephone. Interestingly, Persephone’s patrimony is debated, so very pointedly, the core relationship is mother/daughter. Persephone is consecrated to her mother, a daughter never meant to be given in marriage. This eternal condition of youth and innocence is broken one day when Persephone is picking flowers in an isolated field. Hades, king of the underworld, feels her presence above him, perhaps through the roots of the flowers. Desire kindled in Hades becomes fate. The earth opens. Hades appears on his chariot and carries her down to be his bride.
As the gods will not tell Demeter the whereabouts of her daughter, she searches the universe aided by Hecate, the ancient one who wanders the liminal areas between day and night, earth and underworld, with her torches and braying dogs. But the search is a failure and Demeter abandons the Gods and wanders, disconsolate, among men, refusing to perform her divine function. 
Zeus and his companions have remained silent, perhaps fearing Demeter’s rage. But as the world begins to die for want of agriculture, and the altars of the gods go empty, even Zeus must negotiate. Revealing the truth to Demeter, Zeus makes the case that such a marriage is hardly below her station. Hades is “wealth,” and the underworld the place from which all richness arises. But Demeter will not be appeased. Her daughter must be returned. Hades submits to Persephone’s release but tricks her into eating four pomegranate seeds. Having eaten the food of the realm she must return for four months of each year. (The four dry summer months in Greece and thus the reading, for many, of a seasonal myth.)
For me, the myth is the story of ageing. Demeter can be read as an individual, imagined here as a triple Goddess. (This concept is supported by the fact that Goddesses are often seen as tripartite; Maiden, Mother and Crone, thus Hecate’s appearance) Read this way, we’re looking at the loss of youth. Demeter has begun to dry. Her shock and rage at the loss, her wanderings and her intransigence, resonate deeply with me on a personal level. The three paintings in this series deal with this particular reading.