Dougal Henken   next        Winter 2011 index     156A
Assignment 2  Getty

Martyr Complex, is a study of identity in the religious martyr, and it serves two purposes in its creation. Firstly, it is homage to many of the artistic renderings of Christian martyrdom within the Getty Collection, from Flemish Illustrations to Italian Masterworks. In my project, I have reduced many of these pieces to their base structures: scenery, saint, and persecutor. While each replica stays true to the basic elements in the original work, I paid careful attention to the presentation of each model. The purpose of the work is not to mimic these masterpieces, but to probe a loss of individual identity in the canon of Christian folklore. The ascendance to heaven for each Saint depicted seems to leave an empty shell. The pain, while agonizing, seems a distant experience for some of these figures, as shown in their expressions. Each human figure has their eyes blotted out to denote their role as saint or persecutor, as well as the absence of the spirit. The settings are dark and minimal, to give a feeling of absence and loneliness. While each smaller model serves a purpose, the scenes are also unified in a larger work.
This integrative structure is modeled after Laurana's statue of Saint Cyricus, a baby who had his skull crushed by the governor of Tarsus. Cyricus can be seen as the template for every martyr, an individual who is forced to die for what he or she believes and who is unable to escape fate. As such, each model is placed on a fragment of the saint child's skull, showing the bond between all martyrs in death. Each Saint has his or her individual identity taken away and condemned to a history of Christian mythology. These paintings engulf the lives of these particular martyrs and push them to super-natural heights for the viewer. In a sense, the painted bodies of these figures still exist in our corporeal world, permanently suffering as examples of pride to those who follow similar beliefs. In Martyr Complex, these saint's float aimlessly, forever trapped in the last agonizing moments of their lives, surrounded by darkness and the tumult of other martyrs.

Saint Cyricus, Francesco Laurana
The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence, Pacino di Bonaguida
The Martyrdom of Saint Apollonia, Lieven van Lathem, Flemish, 1469
The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, Simon Bening, Flemish, Bruges, 1535 - 1540
The Stoning of Saint Stephen, Bartholomeus Breenbergh, Dutch, 1632
The Death of Roman Consul Marcus Atilius Regulus, Boucicaut Master and Workshop, about 1415
The Flagellation, Simon Bening, 1525-1530
Saint Denis Holding His Head, Master of Sir John Fastolf, France or England, 1430 - 1440
The Martyrdom of Saints John and Paul, Guercino, Italian, 1630 - 1632