Alleson Buchanan, 2022.
"Medusa My Muse." Misunderstood Goddess No. 2.
Neon tubes, wood, velvet. 42 × 48 in.
Purchase of this piece includes the head of Medusa, and optional consultation for design of a matching location-specific altar.
Second product photo by HANK LOVES NEON (https://hanklovesneon.com/) 2022, used with permission.
Artist's Statement (**Trigger Warning** Sexual abuse)
I want to reframe Medusa’s story, and disentangle her legacy from the patriarchal shadow. Her story does not show us a hideous gorgon, petrifying everyone with her gaze. Instead it describes intersecting abuses of power: Victim blaming, hatred of women, and willful ignorance of withheld consent.
Medusa was a rape victim and was punished for Poseidon’s sexual abuse.
Medusa’s beauty was well known. She served as a priestess in the temple of Athena and one of the requirements was virginity while serving. The myth describes Poseidon’s longing for Medusa and her beauty. I don’t understand the motivation, but it seems he just decided to take her with force one day. My suspicion is he intentionally raped her at the foot of Athena's temple so that Athena would punish her and he’d get off scot-free. Rather than being a support system Athena punished Medusa, transforming her into the Gorgon we know today.
Here’s the kicker for me - Medusa did not wish to harm people with her petrifying gaze. She took her curse and hid it away, living in seclusion in a cave.
The tale continues, touting Perseus as a hero for slaying Medusa. But he was a mediocre puppet of the patriarchy. To find Medusa he harassed and threatened more women, stealing the eye of the Graeae until they revealed her location. Then he leaned on his privilege and was given five gifts from the gods: Mercury’s winged shoes, Athena’s shield (yep! She helped), a blade, a helmet, and a sack for Medusa’s head. After he killed Medusa, he violently rejected her chosen isolation and cast her as a monster by using her severed head and petrifying gaze for his conquests.
The patriarchy is bad for everyone, including men. Athena and Perseus could have used their power to reject the harmful system that elevated them. Instead they chose to uphold the patriarchy and ruin Medusa’s life and legacy.
Medusa is a Misunderstood Goddess. She was punished for someone else’s crime and rewritten as a monster. I choose to memorialize her as a grieving goddess who tried to stop a cycle of trauma, and was instead used by men to perpetuate harm without her consent.
I wish to leave you with an excerpt from a poem I find powerful:
I saw you once, Medusa; we were alone.
I looked you straight in the cold eye, cold.
I was not punished, was not turned to stone—
How to believe the legends I am told?
I turn your face around! It is my face.
That frozen rage is what I must explore—
Oh secret, self-enclosed, and ravaged place!
This is the gift I thank Medusa for.
May Sarton, 1971
“The Muse as Medusa”
Medusa My Muse
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