Homage to the “ordinary” life.

The Meadows of Asphodel, Maggie Louise.

Maggie LouiseThe Meadows of Asphodel, Maggie Louise. (Oil on Canvas, 41cm x 33cm)

About Maggie Louise: I came across the image below in The Times newspaper in March 2009, it was in an article by Helen Rumbelow about what can be the downside of Government intervention. Maggie was born more than 90 years ago the daughter of a tenant cotton farmer in the American south during the depression. A poet name John Agee was given an assignment by a New York magazine to get some “poverty-porn” for it’s well-heeled readers, the resulting book produce was “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men”.

Maggie Louise

The original image from “Let us Now Praise Famous Men” from which I created the painting.

Maggie Louise was a bright girl and did well at school despite having to pick cotton to help support the family and had dreams to achieve things that would take here out of poverty. The cotton industry was failing at the time and instead of letting it collapse the government bailed it out with cash and one effect of this was to keep the tenant farmers in poverty. 50 years later another journalist Dale Maharidge went back to the area to see what had happened to the families and produced the Pulitzer prize-winning book “And Their Children After Them”. Maggie Louise had not been able to continue at school and had married at 15 and quickly became a young mother. At the age of 45 heartbroken to watch her own daughters having to do the same as she did as a child picking cotton, went out to a local hardware store, bought a bottle of rat poison and sat down and drank it committing suicide.

My interest in the image. We all have tragedy in our lives at sometimes, but I am often struck by how fortunate I have been, and the difficulty of the human existence lived by the vast number of the “ordinary” folk of humanity. This has always been something I have been drawn to. This is not to decry the heroic of this world but perhaps elevate the “ordinary” in lived lives to be the amazing thing it is.

This work is one which documents an ordinary but difficult life and is my little effort in praise of the “ordinary” and I hope that Maggie is content in the “Meadows of Asphodel”

The Meadows of Asphodel: in Greek legend the place where ordinary souls pass the afterlife.

AsphodelAsphodel Flowers.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives Homer as the source for the English poetic tradition of describing the meadows of the afterlife as being covered in Asphodel. In the translation by W. H. D. Rouse, the passage in question (from The Odyssey, Book 11) is rendered, “the ghost of clean-heeled Achilles marched away with long steps over the meadow of Asphodel.” In Book 24 in the same translation, the souls of the dead, “came to the Meadow of Asphodel where abide the souls and phantoms of those whose work is done. “Homer describes the experience of the dead souls and relates the meadow to its surroundings in these books and in Circe’s brief description at the end of Book 10. Asphodel flowers growing in the underworld is an idea that may predate Homer’s writings. (Source Wikepedia).

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