Anna Karenina and The Bloody Lady Elizabeth Bathory
I will be posting the artist’s statements I wrote for each doll that were hung next to them in the gallery. I was wanting to do it earlier, but didn’t get around to it with all the preparations for the opening.
Anna Karenina Survives The Train. 2010
This one-of-a-kind engraved, porcelain doll, features a complex, full-body, color tattoo of an orthopedic corset and a prosthetic leg device. Face is one of a kind. Magnetic wig is removable, and permanently styled into intricate braiding adorned with a Victorian copper comb.
This doll is based on the main protagonist from the majestic and tragic novel Anna Karenina written by Leo Tolstoy. I tried to re-imagine Annaâ€™s heartbreaking love story with a different ending where she survives her horrific suicide attempt at jumping under a slow-moving train, but sustains severe, disfiguring injuries, losing her left leg, mangling her left arm and breaking her back instead.
I took the metaphor of straight-laced, yet decadent attitudes of Victorian Russian society that governed and ultimately decided Annaâ€™s fate, and interpreted it in a literal, visual way as her medical bondage braces and prosthetic devices, which now literally hold her shattered body together. She is protected, yet restrained by the inhumanity of social conventions. I wonder if surviving her suicide would make any difference in her destiny despite her transgression of the status quo.
Amongst a myriad of deeply philosophical issues, the biggest question that the novel Anna Karenina leaves one with is perhaps whether love can really conquer all.
A part of me wants to believe that Annaâ€™s near death experience would serve as a powerful epiphany for her and her lover count Alexey Vronsky, and transform their deteriorating relationship back into a loving union it once was, but a realist in me questions this idealistic approach, rationalizing that her difficult situation in life brought on by breaking the social rules and conventions of the day, and can not have a long-term, happy resolution unless all the stigma of her illicit relationship is removed and her public image reinstated.
The incident may cause a profound spiritual awakening for her and Alex, but they will continue to face the same external problems of gender inequity, which have undone their powerful love before.
Sadly, their first near death experience is a testament that perhaps love does not conquer all: When Anna nearly dies during childbirth and Alexey shoots himself in despair of losing her, both survive and are overcome with gratitude and love for each other, but their happiness is fleeting as it provides only a temporary, idealized escape from their difficult situation, followed by an eventual boredom, loneliness, frustration and inevitable return to a grim reality.
Will this, second near death experience with an added problem of Annaâ€™s disability be any more profound and lasting than the first? Perhaps, but Iâ€™m skeptical.
And yet, a romantic in me believes in Annaâ€™s life, while John Miltonâ€™s quote from Paradise Lost encourages me to believe that perhaps there could have been a happy ending for Anna Karenina after all:
â€œThe mind is its own place, and in itself, Can make a heavâ€™n of hell, a hell of heavâ€™n.â€
Perhaps Anna and Alex could have made their own heaven in the hell that they found themselves?
I re-imagined the climax scene where Alexey finds Anna broken, but alive instead of dead and mutilated on the table at the train station where they had carried her body, and the despair and grief of her ugly death turns instead into relief and a renewal of their love for each other. Just like in Disney movies, they embrace, kiss, and ride off into the sunset, leaving their superficial selves, the superficial society that bred them and all its false idols behind to live happily ever after.Â The End.
The Bloody Lady Elizabeth Bathory. 2010
One of a kind, porcelain, ball-jointed, costumed doll. A very complex costume is assembled from 23 separate, original Sterling Silver pieces with 24k gold plating and an Indian wedding saree skirt. All clothes and accessories are removable. Face is one of a kind. Removable wig is magnetic.
This doll is based on a real historical figure of Transilvanian countess Elizabeth Bathory (17 August 1560 â€“ 21 August 1614), from the renowned BÃ¡thory family.
Allegedly, Elizabeth was a sadistic serial killer who tortured and murdered as many as six hundred girls in a span of 20 years. Despite going down in history as the most prolific female serial killer with a kill rate of mythological proportions, there is very little historical evidence against her. In fact, when considered in a larger historical and political context, it appears that Elizabeth was a victim of an aristocratic conspiracy with a resulting mass hysteria, and that her original accusers were politically, financially and possibly, ideologically motivated.
Regardless of evidence, history appears to be infatuated with the image of this woman as a ruthless murderer, even if this image is nothing but a myth. Her presence in history is as mysterious and secretive as her enigmatic smile, which could hide either a twisted sociopath, or an innocent victim of slander.
Although we will never know the truth behind the Bloody Lady Elizabeth Bathory, we must consider these following historical facts before condemning her:
There is the lack of the most basic proof: the victimâ€™s names. There arenâ€™t any official names on record of Bathoryâ€™s alleged victims, or bodies for that matter. It was said that she had killed daughters of peasantry as well as lesser nobility. But who are these missing women exactly?
The logistics of murder donâ€™t make sense either. Elizabeth was accused of killing around 600 girls in 20 years. That means she killed 30 people a year. Thatâ€™s 1 murder every 12 days. How could such a visible public figure get away with such an astronomical kill rate for 20 years, in a region with a population of much less than three hundred thousand people? Where was she getting all these women and why was virtually nobody noticing this, except for one single minister Istvan Magyari? One would think that if daughters were going missing left and right every month in villages, there would be some sort of a public concern and even a panic. Instead, the â€œrumorsâ€ of murders had began to spread only after the official investigation had already started.
Another interesting detail is the fact that when King Matthias of Hungary ordered the investigation into the rumors of murders, he was heavily indebted to the wealthy and influential Elizabeth Bathory. Based on flimsy, hearsay witness testimony, King Matthis had her imprisoned without any formal trial, conviction or further punishment and avoided having to repay her the large sum of money for which he lacked sufficient funds.
Elizabeth Bathoryâ€™s case happened at a time of religious upheaval and hostility in Hungary. As a Transilvanian Protestant aristocrat, she was a political opposition to King Matthis, who was an Austrian Roman Catholic.
My final argument in favor of Elizabeth Bathoryâ€™s innocence is that her case shows evidence not only of political conspiracy, but also of the mass hysteria phenomenon, where a runaway public fear clouds all rational judgment, leading to escalating panic and severe miscarriages of justice. Such cases and trials are often characterized by absurd accusations, unfounded witness testimony, extremely biased public opinion, coercive interrogations and incompetent investigative techniques.
I see a distinct parallel between Elizabeth Bathoryâ€™s murder investigation and the of mass hysteria of the famous Salem witch trials of 1692, the Kern County Satanic ritual child abuse hysteria of 1983 and the West Memphis Three murders of 1993, where all accusations began with one person and grew out of thin air into frenzied fear and everyone conveniently forgot that a person is innocent until proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt.
This entry was posted on Saturday, June 12th, 2010 at 10:09 pm
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