Alex Kuno’s “Orpheus and Eurydice” Illustrates a Tragic Love Story

by CaroPosted on

Minnesota based artist Alex Kuno best describes his work’s narratives as apocalyptic, satiric fairytales. His mixed media illustrations are as dark as they are whimsical, following deranged subjects, often children, rendered in acrylics, graphite, chalk, ink, ballpoint pens and crayons on pine boards. His early series, after which he named his website, calls this world the “The Miscreants of Tiny Town”, inhabited by lost orphans looking for a home in an endless, foreboding landscape that has as much personality as its characters. Though nightmarish, there’s also a sense of romance in his young subjects’ undying desire to eke out a better existence for themselves. A story about romance is at the heart of Kuno’s latest series debuting on Valentine’s Day at Dorothy Circus Gallery in Rome. Titled, “Orpheus and Eurydice: Beyond the Myth”, the series is his take on the ancient legend of Orpheus and Eurydice- the fateful love of Orpheus of Thrace, son of Apollo and the muse Calliope, who dived into the Underworld for the beautiful Eurydice. In a bittersweet end to the story, Orpheus died but muses decided to save his head and keep it among the living people to sing for ever, enchanting everyone with the lovely melodies and tones. In the tradition of his art, Kuno tells the tale of his plight in fantastical and violent imaginings, taking a dark story from mythology and applying it to real world emotions. Take a look at more works from the series, including Kuno’s commentary about each piece, below.

“Eurydice eventually encounters the Asp, and as she does the landscape suddenly disintegrates into a fragile and inhospitable environment. Orpheus’ hide falls away in his shock, and Eurydice finds herself completely vulnerable as she falls through the Earth.”

“Here, Orpheus has completely let everything go—his lyre destroyed, his feet in the air and face half-buried in the snow at the bottom of the image. In the myth, Orpheus dies in a number of number of different ways, but the version where he’s attacked by a Dionysian cult of insane women seemed like the most appropriate conclusion for this series. I chose to depict these cultists as grotesque, mythological mixed creatures, militaristic and armored to refer to other characters in my previous work. Incidentally, one of their shields is emblazoned with an image of grapes. Grapes have appeared in every image aside from the 4th panel, as a way to foreshadow Orpheus’ inevitable death.

There is a structure frozen in the distance of this piece, suggesting a cross between a glacier and a city. I imagine this is the temple of The Underworld, in full view of the audience but frozen solid for the Winter. But like all glaciers these days, it too will eventually melt away and Spring will come around again, allowing this story to be retold indefinitely.”

“The two lovers appear from the thawing mountains, still wearing primitive helmets and hides. From their perspective, the apparently clear and solid path is blooming with fertile promises. From the viewer’s perspective, we can see the fateful asp, emerging from its den.”

“In the myth, Orpheus follows Eurydice down to The Underworld to beg for her return to Earth. Hades (here depicted as a cross between a temple, a face, a crescent moon and a boat) initially allows her to leave with him, but warns Orpheus that if he turns around to look at her on their way out of The Underworld, she will disappear and He will keep her forever. Of course Orpheus does turn at some point, and of course he loses the bargain he struck with Hades, and he loses her forever.”

“Sadness and Depression are intrinsically alienating and dislocating emotions; this landscape is set in an ambiguous time of year, the color scheme is slightly different from the rest of the series. Here, Orpheus is completely naked and wailing by a bare tree and cold stream. Eurydice, usually stationed on the left-hand side of the previous panels, has now disappeared from the series completely and replaced by a sealed cave, while Orpheus’s position has been sliding down the panels. Zeus, who’s been known to appear to humans in the form of a bull from time to time, is, at this moment, also in a transitional state. Both God and Man are taking time out to have a good cry.”

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