Can you though? Can you reinvent Medusa?
Of course you can. Whether you should: that is up for debate.
Snake headed horror, if you stared into her eyes – went the Greek myth – you would be instantly turned to stone.
Cycle back to the opening of Medusa’s life and some would be surprised to know she was stunningly beautiful, despite having a fearsome family. It does not do to be too ridiculously good looking in Greek mythology because those Greek Gods, they are narcisssistic self-serving politicking powermongers.
Athena , despite being the goddess of wisdom, seems to have had a hand in Medusa’s downfall. Some stories have Medusa boasting of her own powers;other simply say she was too darn beautiful. She was taken by Poseidon in one of Athena’s temples and with a flick of Athena’s wrist, the third gorgon was just that. Medusa was hideous to behold, with a tusk coming from her forehead , fanged teeth and a lolling tongue and a gaze so hideous it would turn a man to stone.
Most of us remember her as Perseus’s challenge, by which time she was viewed as a hideous, dangerous hag. He dispatched her using her own reflection and a sharp sickle.
Can you have a retrospective of Greek mythology? It’s a little distant for that. But at an art gallery in St Albans, UK, someone seems to be having a good try. Rewriting the storybooks. Making us check Perseus and his vanquished harridan out in a new way.
Susie MacMurray is an artist and sculptor. I happened to wander into the gallery at St Albans this summer and there was Medusa as I have never seen her before. This is a forties glamour-Medusa, a copper-chain-mail demonstration of va-va-voom.
Headless, admittedly, she is a glorious tailor’s dummy in a fishtail creation to die for-the very last word in tentacled couture.
No one in the gallery could keep their eyes off her. She stands proud:McMurray has her portrayed as a classical and wronged heroine.
Am I right to think this is a post modernist approach to the old Greek favourite? A move to distrust the conclusions drawn by those Greek storytellers of old?
Certainly this beauty, standing tall and graceful in the gallery, made us think. And absolutely, this is a free country and if anyone wants to reinvent Medusa, they should have the freedom to reinvent Medusa.
I suppose I would feel compelled to go back and find out – what is it those Greek myths, those powerful, complex, deeply inequitable tales, told and retold – what is it that retelling achieved? And if we treat Medusa with saccharine and excuse her latter day murderousness because of early misfortune, how are we changing the narrative?
Just asking, is all. Do you like your Medusas as wronged heroine or malevolent hag?