Aphrodite by John Dean
Aphrodite 142. From the Foam of Life
The literal translation of Aphrodite means; ‘Of the froth, or foam’. The classic story is that she arose as the goddess of beauty, desire, and love from a ‘fertilised’ Mediterranean Sea in a crimson shell, However, it is probably best not to ask how the sea was fertilised.
I have represented her through the hands of some of the most beautiful and desirable as well as talented, intellectual, dedicated, and brave women throughout history.
Their ‘same time’ in the limelight, most roughly the same age. In the picture they are brought into sync, allowing Aphrodite to be personified. Now imagine after you have stopped looking at the picture and eventually it slips from your mind, their time will run normal again and she melts back into being that biological program or ‘app’ of desire and love in the hearts and minds of us all.
Personifying Aphrodite like I have may have worked too well; emphasising mainly the beauty made me feel I may be in danger of objectifying women, leaving everything else that women are - as secondary. This notion, I think brings alive a personality that is often portrayed in recent times as shallow or air headed. She is actually a very complicated goddess.
Money? Talent? Power? If you have love in your life what could be more important? But on the flip side, out of all those gods of death, war, discord, retribution, etc. played out in the classics, this primordial goddess has probably caused more trouble than all of them put together.
I do not see Aphrodite just as a biological program or an app in the hearts and minds of all mankind, but in the very fabric of almost all life. Sex played a pivotal role in the evolution of life on Earth.
I have always been fascinated how such a simple theory like evolution can lead from chemistry to simple life and onto more and more complex life, intelligence, love, rock n roll and to the very thoughts in your head. The British ethologist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins visualised it by thinking of information, say in your genes as trying to find any way to be immortal, but this takes energy and resources which are usually limited and difficult to acquire. The biggest mystery for me is that it runs opposite to the natural flow of entropy.
Evolution only really took off when one set of genetic information found a way of mixing up all other genes, condemning the information on them to a limited life through change, and in the process truly making itself immortal. The sex gene was born. Aphrodite truly did emerge from the foam of the primordial sea.
However, I am personifying her through the lens of humanity because she means so much more to us than reproduction. People tend to get a bit theologically weak at the knees when it comes to humanities capacity to love.
The truth is that most likely 1.5 million years ago our Homo Ergaster ancestors started to pair bond. An alpha male hierarchy that exists in all other ape species creates too much tension between sexually mature rivals to cooperate well. Back then the world was changing, and we needed to adapt. We needed to cooperate better to compete with other animals more adapted for hunting in this dryer climate. We were at this stage, new to hunting, made possible through complex communication, which in turn was only made possible by pair bonding.
Other animals pair bond like us too. It is most likely a quality within all higher species on Earth to differing degrees. To me it is not the most important thing understanding how beauty, desire and love in our species originated, by evolution or by divine gift. if the universe is teaming with ‘other life’, then love, the way we love, might be very rare, making us and life on Earth, very special.
This image is constructed from 142 mortal women’s hands representing an incredible span of human history and experience. My original drawing of 60 overlaid with the second drawing of 82. This double image is then overlaid with photoshopped water ripples. Then the final overlay for the finished images is a watercolour of mine depicting Aphrodite herself. This final overlay has had an odd effect on the photoshop qualities, enhancing those effects giving the final images.
The photo I took of the ripples by the way, is from a fountain pool in a garden in Marrakech. Marrakech is overlooked by the Atlas Mountains – the earthly personification of the Titan who is technically one of her cousins.