Will others see a Peacock? Ovid’s Argus, Blixen’s Stork and Frances Stark

Arge, iaces, quodque in tot lumina lumen habebas,              
exstinctum est, centumque oculos nox occupat una.
excipit hos volucrisque suae Saturnia pennis
collocat et gemmis caudam stellantibus inplet.

Argus, you are overthrown, the light of your many eyes

is extinguished, and one night sleeps under so many eyelids.

Juno took his eyes and set them into the feathers of her own bird,

and filled the tail with star-like jewels.

– Ovid Metamorphoses 1. 720-723

Karen Blixen recounts a story that she was told as a child. A man, who lived by a pond, was awakened one night by a great noise. He went out into the night and headed to the pond, but in the darkness, running up and down, back and forth, guided only by the noise he stumbled and fell repeatedly. At last, he found a leak in the dyke, from which water and fish were escaping. He set to work plugging the leak and only when he had finished went back to bed. The next morning, looking out of the window he saw with surprise that his footprints had traced the figure of a stork on the ground At this point Karen Blixen asks herself: ‘When the design of my life is complete, will I see, or will others see a stork?’

– Adriana Cavarero ‘A Stork for an Introduction’ from Relating Narratives: Storytelling and Selfhood.

[France Stark] portrays herself as a bird — a peacock, a wren, a cockatoo ­— as in Portrait of the Artist as a Full-On Bird (2004), grasping a twig made of collaged letters; or a woodpecker, as in A Bomb (2002), about to nudge with its beak the penciled “A” in an Emily Dickinson fragment printed and repeated in the shape of a sphere. The bird analogy is fitting in many ways for an artist who flits between media, alights gently, sometimes tentatively, on ideas, and pecks through a library’s worth of books for bits of text. But the bird is also in her name: Frances Stark, starling, lark, perching on branches — and “stark” describes the spare, black-and-white aesthetic of many of her works; stark is the way she bares her person, and/or her persona

– Katherine Satorius ‘Portrait of a Bird: The Work of Frances Stark’ The Los Angeles Review of Books


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