August 13, 2017

Ostracon Overlay

Drawing number sixty-three, from my series of eighty drawings (I hope) for eighty verses, was completed last night. This drawing originated from the sketch for the verse "The Ostracon."

An ostracon is a term used to describe ancient shards of pottery with writing on them. These were often used almost like ancient post it notes to write down the mundane notes and sketches from daily life. In this respect they are often useful to archaeologists for understanding day to day activities, conflicts and concerns of ordinary citizens in ancient societies.

In my drawing, there are intact vases as well as a fragment on a shelf in the background beside the seated figure. The dress pattern on the figure was derived from a pattern found on an ancient piece of sculpture from Mesopotamia. The sculpture in the picture on the wall behind the figure is also from that time period, circa 2600 BC.

The subject of pottery came up in an interesting way as I made my original drawing. During my sketching, my model mentioned the volatile nature of her family upbringing and how strong emotions and interactions were handled in her household. She explained that her family kept two sets of china on hand; one set for eating off of and the other for throwing. That was a very interesting way of dealing with sibling rivalries and parent/child conflicts, I thought. I also wondered how such a method would have panned out in my childhood home, with eight children. Imagine the piles of pottery shards!

At the base of the figure in my drawing, I placed two plates. One has hints of decoration that would ascribe its use to "good eating off of" china. The other is the plain, throwing variety. I wondered, if my friend’s china throwing exploits had some deeper, Mediterranean roots, as she described this habit as having been derived from the Mediterranean side of her family. In ancient Athens, for instance, citizens used ostracons on which to inscribe their voting preferences in deciding who to exile from a community - hence the root of the word ostracize. Perhaps over the millennia, groups of people decided to skip the writing on the pottery step and just fling it at people they disagreed with.

My old friend, who posed for this sketch, often used language to describe her interactions with people in a very purposeful way that often seemed to involve propulsion. Phrases like "I had to jettison that person out of my life," come to mind. The person in question then, becomes the flung pottery. I think that my preferred phrase in situations involving unresolvable conflict was more along the lines of "cut that person loose." Which is worse? Flung at? Flung out? Or just let drop?

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