I recently had a chat with American artist Evens Joseph about the construction of his visual universe, inhabited with butterfly-winged creatures. Both his process and his focus on harmonious female forms led me to summons the concept of ‘muse’, and I thought it was worth examining the subject with more emphasis.
What is a muse? The Ancient Greeks were relying on nine young women to explain they sudden creativity and success in arts. Later, muses seemed to multiply and every poet, every painter received his own. They were at the same time ethereal and real (a lover, a benefactor), young and timeless. They were expressing the energy running free in the veins of the artist, or inside of anyone with dreams and goals. To picture these spiritual women, Evens Joseph uses a lot of natural elements. And, indeed, they are usually associated with the purity and beauty of plants. In a world where our ties with ecology are loosening up, especially for the younger, technology-obsessed generation, I think it is important to remind the concept of muses. As they are both Nature and our own nature: this will to think bigger, to grow and improve, to get in touch with others and with something more sublime.
But something else in the interview of Evens Joseph caught my attention: the inspiration he said he found on his Haitian roots, in ancient mythologies and childhood tales. The wisdom of humanity. Mothers, grandmothers, elders. For centuries, women are passing on things like knowledge, experiences and artistic techniques. And imagination is one of them. Not that men cannot do the same. What is more essential than the handover from a mother to a child, from a master to a student? Legacy. Humanity is made of it. Art is born from it. By injecting his traditions and fascination into his artworks, he reminds us that muses are also what brought us here, a millenary family of dreamers and of makers.
Did you notice that his heroines seem to be captured at a transitional moment, between human form and natural elements? This is what our life is made of. We come from nature, we go back to nature. We evolve. Not in a so visible manner, as in the Metamorphoses of classic poet Ovid or in the illustrations of Evens, but we are bound to change. It can be violent or unforced, but it is unavoidable. Let’s accept our fate and turn it into something enjoyable, just as Evens Joseph does it.
Two feet on Earth, a mind grateful for past generations, and our eyes turned toward the future. Trust the softness, the harmony, and the dedication you can see in this American artist’s work: the future still has solutions and wonders because the muses decided so. Make the muses happy!