Icons (2007) is a collaborative work between cross disciplinary artist Diana Bennett and photographer Ryan Van Der Hout. Through resin tablets juxtaposed with photograms, the series explores a misguided and misogynistic past which mirrors the resurgence of neo-fundamentalism threatening individual freedoms throughout the Judeo-Christian and Muslim worlds.
Over 125 years ago Nietzsche stated in The Gay Science, God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?"
- Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 125, tr. Walter Kaufman
Yet, while God may be dead, the long reach of our desire for faith and certainty in a tumultuous world continues. In North America and much of Europe notwithstanding the separation of church and state, the zeitgeist has collapsed and religious fundamentalism is on a steady rise. Perhaps the digital age seems too daunting and a reversion to antiquarian ideals provides comfort to the new fundamentalists. A pervasive symbol of that fundamentalism is the cloaking of women.
The figures represented in Icons are drawn from the Bible, where female characters have often been marginalized and vilified in favor of their male counterparts. This series retells and interprets their stories in the context of a society moving backwards to the fundamentalist perspectives of more ancient times where antiquarian ideals of femininity and piousness, prevailed. The women of Icons are vulnerable; often they are wrapped, veiled, and hidden; yet their power is evident. The shrouded figures of the biblical women in the tablets and photograms strongly resemble the burka clad women of today.
The resin sculptures contain a collage of large format photographic slides which integrate to represent female icons from Judeo-Christian writings. Mixed media elements combine to build the figures' iconography; all these elements are floated in a tablet of resin (a hard transparent plastic polymer). These tablets reflect a truth of the individual and their continuing importance to us. A photogram is then made of the resin sculpture which shows the dichotomy between the figures; and their status as a historical relic. The photogram is ultimately coated with resin thereby completing a cyclical process in which the living women in the resin become alienated ghosts of our past in the void of the photogram.