I am currently working on ceramics based on various landscapes. One of the sites I have been looking at are the ‘Diomede Islands‘, in the Bering Strait. The two islands, one ‘Big’ and the other ‘Little Diomede’ are known in Russia as the Gvozdev Islands. The are literally the closest point between the USA and Russia – the larger island being Russian, the smaller American, and a distance of 2.4 miles lies between them, but 21 hours in international time. In 1987 Lynne Cox travelled through space, time and political waters by swimming between the two islands.
The islands are/were also known by their indigenous names ‘Imaqliq’ and ‘Ignaluk’ – the indigenous people were moved off the islands, ‘relocated’ in Russia, never to return, while Little Diomede has a small Inupiat Inuit population. Big Diomede now seems to have only Russian military units of some sort. On Google Earth, altitude information normally shows up wherever you go, but over Big Diomede, there is no information, just an inexplicable straight edged ridge running along the eastern side of the island (this doesn’t correspond to photos of the islands). I have managed to find out contour information elsewhere though. The islands were ‘rediscovered’ (?) by a Danish navigator, in Russian service on the 16th August 1728, ‘St Diomede’s’ Day in Orthdox Russian Christianity. St. Diomedes is a ‘Holy Unmercenary‘ saint – amongst others are Damien and Cosmas who I posted last month about.
He was a physician, who when he was beheaded, caused those around his body to go blind. Only when the head was restored to the body was their sight in turn restored. The Holy Unmercanaries were saints who did not accept payment for good deeds, though I would have thought all saints should have been like that.
Around 9 miles south-east of the islands, lies a small islet called ‘Fairway Rock‘ a lump of granite providing nesting ground for various birds.
In 1966, the US Navy put a strontium powered RTG (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator) on the island to power an oceanographic station which monitored detectors on the ocean floor looking for submarine traffic heading north. The RTG’s were seen as a useful way of using nuclear waste, and another two were added to the island. In 1995, all three were removed and taken to Hanford Nuclear Reservation for disposal.
RTG’s (if I’ve understood correctly…) convert heat released by the decay of radioactive material into electricity. Strontium, plutonium, polonium, americium… there are apparently thousands of RTG’s rotting away all over Russia.
“…discussing the issue of safe and secure use of isotope products in the “global”
sense, we must admit the obvious: this is an issue of urgency due to a number of reasons.One of them is the threat posed by different terrorist organizations in the world, disintegration
of the former Soviet territory, that led to the loss of control over sources, and in some cases to the loss
of sources as such. For example, unsanctioned opening of RITEGs by local populace in Kazakhstan
and Georgia to obtain non-ferrous metals. For some, the dose that they have been exposed to turned
out to be too high.” (Report by Minister of the Russian Federation for Atomic Energy Mr. A. Yu. Rumyantsev at the IAEA Conference on the Security of Radioactive Sources Vienna, Austria, March 11 2003)
Interestingly, there are 5 plutonium powered RTG’s on the moon, having been left their to power experimental equipment. There are also a number of ‘lost’ RTG’s including one which Apollo 13 was carrying when it reentered Earths atmosphere – it was lost somewhere near Fiji in the ‘Tonga Trench‘.
Tests have apparently shown that the plutonium therein has not escaped, and the cask containing the plutonium is expected to last around 870 years. The failed Russian Mars mission of 1996 brought back 2 RTG’s containing 200g of plutonium plummeting to earth, somewhere to the east of Chile.
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation, where the Fairway Rock RTG’s were taken for disposal, is part of the ‘Hanford Site‘, an enormous decommissioned nuclear production complex in Washington state (where apparently there is a leak which is getting worse). It was established as part of the Manhattan Project, and plutonium manufactured there was used in the first nuclear bomb, and the bomb which destroyed Nagasaki. Looking at the site on Google Earth is quite unnerving. I will put another post up of some images later.
Very close to the Hanford Site, is Hanford Reach National Monument, a 195,000 acre, untouched since 1943, (when the nuclear site was built) kind of reservation park. The site was, unsurprisingly, once a hunting ground for Native Americans. There are a number of rare, threatened or endangered species of animals and plants there, including elk and Chinook Salmon, which spawn in the Columbia River there.
The Diomede Islands, separated by a couple of miles, but 21 hours and conflicting ideologies. The Hanford Site and the Hanford Reach National Monument, separated by the Columbia River and conflicting approaches to the management and engagement of the environments we choose to shape. I’d be interested to know if the plant and animal life on one side of the river is able to inhabit the other side, and vice versa – whether there is some kind of microbial version of Lynne Cox.
These photos are from the exhibition “The Ancestors” at Canterbury Cathedral. There are around eight 12th and 13th century windows that have been brought down from the heights (around 70 metres) of the cathedral while the stonework is to be repaired, and are currently down at eye (ish) level in the chapel. You can get right up close to them. It’s open until 25th August and is really a once in a lifetime opportunity. However your life isn’t my life so maybe you’re not bothered.
Gustave Dore, painter and engraver. Visited Scotland, lived with his mum.
In Genesis 19, we saw that Lot and his daughters escaped from Sodom, and Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt because she made the mistake of turning round to see the Lord destroy the city. We are now towards the end of Genesis 19, where Lot and his daughters have gone up into the mountains and are hanging out in a cave. They are alone, and this solitude worries the elder daughter. She says to her sister that their father is old, and there is no one else around, and they have to ensure their family line continues, and why don’t we get dad drunk, then I’ll sleep with him, then you can sleep with him, and we’ll get pregnant and hey presto line is continued.
So, the elder sister gets dad drunk, sleeps with him; ‘he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up’; and the next day she suggests to her sister she do the same, which she does – again, Lot doesn’t realise that any of this has happened. And so, it comes to pass that….
‘So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.’
– The daughters obviously feel that maintaining the family line is important. Perhaps, they also feel that there are not a lot of folk left after the Lord’s destruction of the cities. This is real dedication to the family, and helps ensure the longevity of Abraham’s line (the line that the Lord had promised would last). I have a feeling that this family line may, following the course of time, prove to be an important one.
– It should not be assumed that the daughters lusted after their father, or vice versa (which the following paintings generally fail to acknowledge…).
– Did they have time to collect wine before they fled Sodom?
– They must have gotten Lot very drunk for him not to realise. Twice.
– The text is very careful to ensure that Lot is not to blame for what happens, in fact, he had no idea! So, all potential shame is placed on the sisters. How can someone be guilty of something they did not know they had done?
– I am looking forward to hearing about Lot’s reaction to the pregnancies, once they start to show.
– It is possible that Lot is being punished (raped) for previously offering his daughters to the townspeople in Sodom. What he was prepared to put his daughters through, is now being done unto him.
There is an enormous amount of painting dedicated to this biblical scene. I imagine it gave artists and patrons the opportunity to have some sexy paint on their walls while still maintaining a certain amount of piousness. The range of approaches is not very wide though. I have chosen the following as some have unusual touches, or are generally representative of the subject. Also, sometimes this scene is called ‘The Rape of Lot by his Daughters’. (CLICK ON IMAGES TO GET A BIGGER IMAGE AND A BETTER VIEW OF THINGS)
Firstly, the Gentileschi’s – father and daughter. Orazio (the father) has painted two L&hD’s. They are pretty restrained, the first showing a tenderness, with Lot almost being mothered. There isn’t so much sexiness, other than the daughter in yellow’s dress slipping off. The wine is knocked over, and Lot seems knocked out. I’m guessing this is inbetween daughters. The group are entwined with complexity, of limbs and colour. One daughter points off to the distance, probably to Sodom to indicate the fate of the city, and perhaps the families lack of male options to come… Its pretty serene this one.
In his second, later version, there is more of a sense of space, plus a bit more sexiness. One daughter (perhaps the elder) seems to be trying to convince the other of something. Again, Lot seems to be treated with motherly/daughterly tenderness rather than sensuality. The wine is knocked over again, but there is an addition of vine leaves, which might serve to answer the question of whether they brought wine from Sodom or not. I really like the colour of the sky and vine together, a hint of bright hopefulness in the midst of the cave.
Here we have Orazio’s own daughter, Artemisia’s version. It’s interesting to think of the closeness of relationship these two may have shared (Artemisia trained in her fathers workshop) and how it might have affected their approach to the subject matter. Both certainly are straining to a complexity of emotions between all 3 characters in the paintings. Lot in this painting is clearly in the process of becoming drunk, and his affection is growing, a hand on his daughters shoulder, another approaching her elbow. It seems a plan is underway. I do wonder if its a good idea to give Lot a slice of bread though, if you’re wanting to get him drunk. The other daughter tenderly touches Lot’s own shoulder about to ask if he wants more wine. Lot’s cheeks are rosy. In the background, mother is turned to salt. Vine leaves are silhouetted in the opening of the cave.
Here we get a bit more raunchy. Simon Vouet paints Lot in a stupor, happy to fondle his daughters breast. He moves his head back a bit in an attempt to regain focus of his daughters face. She meanwhile lifts a leg over his and gazes into his eyes. The second daughter is grinning a wee bit, and struggles to hold onto the grand vase which looks like it could hold plenty of vino – she also seems to be pulling something out of a purse, obviously not a condom – it looks like a digestive biscuit. Lot has lost control, and the entire episode has an unpleasant creepiness to it, which the Gentileschi’s do not.
Joachim Wtewaeil was a flax merchant as well as a painter, but there is a distinct lack of flax here. He was apparently known for inserting sensual, suggestive elements into his nude paintings, and I dare say the pinkish, folded cloth on the ground beneath the nude daughter may be one of these, plus all the ripe and rotting fruit. There’s also a strange bulbous white growth under the nude daughters elbow, which looks pretty testicle-like. Maybe I’m seeing too much. There is an abundance of fruit and wine here, and a difference being that the daughters too seem to have drunk a bit. Their cheeks are rosy as well (though many things make rosy cheeks). Lot’s drunk looking, but not out of control, and daughter two seems to approach him for a kiss. Again, this seems more about getting away with sexy paint than representing any complex moral situation.
I can’t find much out about this one, but once again, sexual gratification for the viewer seems important here. Lot’s right knee, covered in his robe, seems to have taken on the shape of a giant cock. The see through fabric that almost comes straight out of this cock-knee is not too subtle either. Daughter is grinning, but Lot has a very forced uncomfortable expression. Daughter 2 is also topless, and pouring wine from an extravagant height. Daughter 1 has a strange necklace on, with what I’m guessing is the face of Jesus on it – I don’t know what that means, perhaps all this terrible, unavoidable sexiness is being held together by religious intent and nothing else.
I like this Paul Cezanne, not for its depiction of the scene, but because it seems that Daughter has just leapt into Lot’s lap, almost straight on to his boner. While his face suggests surprise, his right hand suggests readiness. Its the only painting which really has sexual energy in it- there is heat, darkness, fleshiness.
This one is quite weird – there’s a lot of pottery, and the figures and clothing all look a bit like porcelain. They have almost transparent skin, and there is just a hint of pinkishness on Lots cheeks and nose. Lots left hand is relaxed, his right daintily begins to undress his daughter, and he gazes down in anticipation of the soon to be revealed breast. It’s all very cold and passionless, not to mention a lack of moral distress. The strangest thing though is that the rock Lot is sat on seems to be wrapped in cloth. It also (honestly) has a hint of glans penis about it. There is a glacial stillness to the painting which I quite like, it just doesn’t seem appropriate to the scene. Francheschini’s paintings all seem to have this porcelain stillness.
Well, this one has a couple of things going for it as far as I’m concerned. First, Lot is reeking. His eyes are all over the place, his fingers aren’t working properly, his legs are spread, and there’s no chance of him standing up without causing all kinds of mess. Secondly, the daughter on the left is posing in a convincingly post-coitus manner, languid, stretching, maybe about to fall asleep. This painting feels exhausted. In fact, maybe Lot isn’t that knackered, maybe he’s attempting to get up for round two. As an aside, apparently Jacob van Loo killed a man in an inn in Amsterdam, and had to flee to Paris. Positively Caravaggian.
Now this one is just ridiculous. What a barrel of laughs they are having, not a care in the world. Looking at some more of Jean-Francois de Troy‘s work, he seems like a class I pompoustier.
This is another Joachim Wtewael. I put this one in, partly because everyone is a bit green, but also because it seems to further add to the fantasy of the (male) viewer, by adding a little touch of potential lesbian action – daughter on the left is looking over to daughter on the right adoringly, while just about to touch her with a raised big toe…I’m also intrigued by Lot’s choice of breast touching technique.
Johann Rottmayr makes the list due to the fanstastic drunken stare in Lot’s eyes. He is 100% waltered.
Marcelle Hanselaar is the only contemporary artist in this list, she is also only the second woman. What I like about this is that the daughters are clearly in charge here, whether Lot likes it or not. Plus, it is the first to show the actual sexual act, and the daughter is on top and in charge, for responsible and practical reasons. I don’t know what one of the daughters is hiding, it looks like a mirror.
And finally, Otto Dix’s interpretation. This is the best drunken Lot – he is grinning with his moustache, and his gaze and raised hand are actually depicted in the act of missing the glass of wine. He cannot focus at all. His right hand is curling up at something, the nothingness just out of grasp of every true drunkard. The daughter (again on top) seems to be using the wine as a distraction while she mounts him, and this is another more complex representation of the act. The other daughter however looks a little too pleased with the proceedings. Is she undressing or covering up? In the background Sodom burns.
“I captured many troops alive: from time to time I cut off their arms and hands; from others I cut off their noses, ears, extremities. I gouged out the eyes of many troops. I made one pile of the living and one of heads. I hung their heads on trees around the city” King Ashurnasirpal II, ruler of Nimrud from 883 – 859 BC.