“This is the palace where I’ve learned to survive”
-Tino Villanueva, So Spoke Penelope
“you can't keep weaving all day And undoing it all through the night; Your arms get tired, and the back of your neck gets tight; ... Suddenly you burst into tears; There is simply nothing else to do.”
-Edna St. Vincent Millay, An Ancient Gesture
I have always been inspired by myth, nature, pattern, and texture. This work builds on these fascinations.
Penelope is the wife of Odysseus and the embodiment of “home” in the epic poem The Odyssey. With her husband presumed dead after a twenty-year absence, she promises to remarry only once she finishes weaving a burial shroud. Instead, every night she picks apart her work, secretly destroying her progress in order to postpone marrying any of the suitors who flock to her door. Eventually, Odysseus returns, murdering all 108 of Penelope’s suitors and rejoining his wife only after passing several tests administered by her to prove his true identity.
This work explores the original myth’s themes and motifs, those of cunning and carnage, love and loyalty, creation and destruction, change and persistence. What is the meaning of Penelope’s creation sprung from absence? Is her art simply a sign of enduring faithfulness, or is it a declaration of her independence? And what does this provision of space and independence giving birth to art say about the necessary environment for art to happen? Finally, what does it mean to pose Penelope as a figure of constancy when her life is defined by a cycle of recreation and destruction? For me, Penelope’s creative domesticity cannot be read as simply the steady root of home posed in contrast to her husband’s adventures, but instead an epic endured in tandem with Odysseus’ own physical journey: that of surviving loss and trauma.
Penelope’s Room is meant to be a woven sanctuary: inviting, calming, and captivating. Visitors are encouraged to walk through, linger with, touch, and embrace the piece. Any unraveling that occurs will be a part of the work.
This installation was made possible through generous support from The Carrack, a zero-commission community art space, and Indio, a store for beautiful goods and gifts. With material donation from Spoonflower and crowdfunding support from more than 30 individuals.