REBIRTH of GAEA

2006 - 2022...
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A massive visual tapestry synthesizing modern conceptions of our place in the universe with those of the Ancient Greeks. 

I've been working sporadically on this digital painting since 2006.

It is the project I’m most proud of.

MYTHOLOGY
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Emma posing as a Greek Goddess, 2006.

THE INTENTION

I wanted to empower my 11-yr-old daughter.

Some of her classmates had been making fun of her fascination with Greek Mythology. At the time, she had been reading the Percy Jackson book series at the time and believed that the gods and goddesses were real.

I wanted her to understand that all religions are based on stories, or myths. When taken at face value and not exploring underlying meaninng, any religion can sound crazy.

And her perspective is just as valid.

For years, I had been creating artwork for her, and immediately thought of creating something along those lines for her. I knew only a little about mythology. I had heard of Apollo, Athena and maybe a few others, but that was about it. I was pretty sure Zeus was the guy with the lightning.

Since my daughter and I are both pretty goofy, it didn’t take any coaxing when I asked if she wanted to grab whatever fruit we had in the kitchen, put it on her head and pretend she was a Greek Goddess.

I thought that would be the end of the project. :)

a seed is planted

For her birthday that year, I got my daughter an audio course on Greek Mythology that we would listen to on car rides. The stories were incredible... each one planting a seed of an image.

For example, one of the stories describes a priestess turning into a tree. I imagined Emma turning into a tree, her fingers becoming branches. To create the image, she pretended to be a tree, her limbs twisting into branches. In lieu of a green screen, my mom and sister held up a bedsheet behind her. 

These photos would be used to create DAPHNE CONSOLES GAEA, one of the many vignettes that make up the final image.

This vignette is one of many interwoven into REBIRTH of GAEA.

DECONSTRUCTING FLOWING MEDITATION
The amazing music is "You're Too Late Satan" by Worm Is Green.

THE VIDEOS

One of the vignettes features Emma as a waterfall.

To create this, I combined hundreds of unrelated photos, beginning by isolating parts of each. For example, to isolate an animal from a photo, I would cut it out down to the detail of its hair. For each animal you see in the final image, I had two or three on standby, isolated. 

I then tried to arrange the elements in a way that enhanced the narrative while integrating seemlessly (trying to match lighting, shadows, etc). It was four months of work before I was done. Finally, I showed it to a friend who asked if I had photoshopped Emma's face onto the waterfall. 

I'm pretty sure my eye twitched. 

This motivated me to create a video describing the process.

Motivated to create a video describing the process, I then turned to other aspects like the background, technical specs, mythology, etc.

A BRIEF OVERVIEW

Motivations, behind-the-scenes, and visual explainers. The incredible music "The Last Man" is by Clint Mansell.

 

DECONSTRUCTING GAEA II

Timelapse process for the logo, Longing For Ouranos + Nebulaic Embryo + Cronos. The amazing music is "Nature Springs" by The Good, The Bad & The Queen.

 

MYTHOLOGY - XRAY LETTERBOX

This video shows the photos I started with in the REBIRTH of GAEA - MYTHOLOGY video.

A description of the multi-layered meaning behind Rebirth of Gaea. The amazing music is "Death is the Road to Awe (featuring Kronos quartet)" by Clint Mansell.

So that the music would remain untouched, I edited the narration and choreographed the camera. The visual story arch is heavily influenced by the music's timing and emotion.

DETAILS WITHIN DETAILS

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My creative process benefits from wandering down unexplored paths, looking for beauty in the details, and being open to whatever possibilities may emerge. Deep-diving into the details was a fundamental part of not only the print, but the video as well.

For example, to create the star element for the video, I put a glass ball on a turntable and took video of it rotating. The sun was setting directly behind it, and it became a self-illuminating marble. I then isolated the element and flipped it, the symmetrical component making it more readily identify as form, albeit ever-changing.

COSMICmind_process

PUSHING IT FURTHER

To breathe life into this empowering Earth goddess, I used Adobe After Effects, which has allowed me to revisit Rebirth of Gaea with fresh eyes time and again to tweak some areas and completely rework others.

For example, the COSMIC MIND in the top left was completed in October 2021. The image represents the shared connection between human and divine via the NEBULAIC EMBRYO seated at the back of the brain(s) where the pineal gland would be.

The person in the image is my mom. I was sort of struck by how the larger, divine version of herself looks so different from the other, human version. For the inverted divine version, I turned her freckles into constellations of stars. A reminder of how the beauty within is timeless, to embrace the process.

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES

What else could it do?

With Gaea, there is no defined end result. Is it a weekend photoshoot? Emma as a tree? As a waterfall? Combine them into one massive collage? Do a making-of video? Or six?

Having no defined outcome continues to allow for limitless possibilities. Today, these images of an empowering earth goddess are available as NFTs here, and a virtual reality experience is in the works.

I'm up for whatever comes next.

Journal: 

11.22.2012

REBIRTH of GAEA – Mythological Overview

When I first started researching which Greek deity would best personify Emma, I considered Demeter, Artemis and Aphrodite, among others.  But because I was mostly focusing on Emma’s qualities of compassion and concern for the environment, it didn’t take long to decide on GAEA, the Goddess of Earth and mother to all Gods.  

Guiding my decisions visually was whether someone from that time period would recognize and relate to my depiction of GAEA.  This is why, for example, there are no views of Earth from space as is often used in other contemporary representations of her.  In addition to researching books and the internet, I listened to a college course by Whitman College’s Elizabeth Vandiver.  Here’s what I found: 

Greek art expressed the ideals of harmony and balance.  It is characterized by a concern both with formal proportion and with the dynamics of action and emotion.  Its primary subject matter is the human figure, the form of the divine; monsters, animals, and plants are secondary.  Like most other mythologies, Greek mythology developed in a preliterate culture where it was the only means to explain and discuss a whole range of phenomena -- concepts that we would approach through science, philosophy, and psychology. 

Only a fraction of ancient Greek literature has survived, and these written versions “frozen” in time are more than likely only a few of the several variants that once existed.  They can be obscure and even contradictory (as in the case of Oedipus whose final fate was described differently by Sophocles and Homer).  Because of this, and because these were never considered an orthodoxy or sacred text like the Koran or Bible, I’ve felt comfortable drawing inspiration from various accounts.

The most complete surviving Greek account of how the universe came into being is Hesiod’s Theogony.  Theogony describes the creation of the material universe through the birth of the Gods.  The Gods are not separate from the universe, do not create it, and are therefore not omnipotent within it. Our modern distinction between metaphorical and literal doesn’t apply and consequently they are both physical realities and highly anthropomorphic entities: they eat, drink, sleep, mate and feel emotions.  This multivalent and complex interpretation gives rise to a mythology extraordinarily rich with imagery.  

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+01 201 707 9630
jessenewman@mac.com
@RebirthofGaea

© Jesse Michael Newman, 2021