More Heroines – posted in Boulder, Colorado Sept 12, 2021

William Blake, The Temptation and Fall of Eve (an illustration for Milton’s Paradise Lost), 1808

I am getting ready to embody more of Claude Cahun’s “Heroines” and make them my own.  As I have written before, remarkable French artist Claude Cahun published the text “Heroines” in 1925 as a series of fifteen short stories and monologues. “Heroines” remains a radical text that deconstructs gender roles and stereotypes in Western literature with such figures as Cinderella, Salome, Eve, Sappho and Androgyne. Norman MacAfee translated Cahun’s text into English and the “Heroines” text was published in the book/ catalogue Inverted Odysseys in 1999. I acted out one of the essays, “THE ESSENTIAL WIFE or the the Unknown Princess,” in performative photographs that I made with Luis Branco for the project and book THE UNKNOWN HEROINE which I just published this year. Norman MacAfee allowed me to use the translated Cahun text in my book. Now I intend to embody the rest of Cahun’s Heroines. I have been looking at representations of these heroines in western art history. I will be reacting to these representations and asserting my own flavor and ideas (as well as Cahun’s more feminist interpretations of these women). I hope to start shooting this project in Portugal in a few weeks with Luis Branco. I am going to start with Eve ….

Following are some of these historic visual representations (albeit mostly by Western European white male painters). Maybe we can change these stories.

Peter Paul Rubens, Samson and Delilah, 1609
Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes, 1612
Martine Gutierrez, Judith (from the series ANTI-ICON), 2021
John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, Penelope, 1864
Jacques-Louise David, The Loves of Paris and Helen, 1788
Simeon Solomon, Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene, 1864
Sandro Botticelli, Madonna of the Book, 1480
Gustave Dore, Cinderella (an illustration for Charles Perrault’s fairy tales), 1862
Eugene Delacroix, Faust trying to seduce Marguerite (an illustration for Faust, Goethe), 1825
Gustave Moreau, The Apparition, 1876
Walter Crane, Beauty and the Beast (illustration), 1874
THE ESSENTIAL WIFE or the the Unknown Princess
Sherry Wiggins and Luis Branco, Image from THE UNKNOWN HEROINE series, 2021
Horace Castelli, illustration from “Sophie’s Misfortunes,” 1858
Francois-Joseph Navez, The Nymph Salmacis and Hermaphroditus, 1829
Claude Cahun, Self-Portrait, 1928

These are the heroines Cahun writes of in her text: Eve; Delilah; Judith; Penelope; Helen; Sappho; Virgin Mary; Cinderella; Marguerite; Salome; Beauty; THE WIFE or the Unknown Princess; Sophie; Salmacis; and The Androgyne. I hope to explore and embody all these heroines.

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