I have long been an admirer of the work of Giovanna Cerise, a 3D artist with a remarkable talent for creating both individual pieces and entire installations that are evocative, rich in narrative and which are often founded upon or intertwine (or both) themes, narratives and ideas from the physical world to present them through the lens of her imagination.
Absent for a time from Second Life, Giovanna made her return in 2020, and since then has been working on a number of projects – both new and retrospective. Two of these projects opened on July 31st, 2021, and this being the case I make no apologies for this being the first of two articles covering her work that will be appearing in these pages over the next two days.
Sybil, presented at Museum Island, offers Giovanna’s interpretation of the Cumaean Sibyl (“prophetess”), who was said to reside near Cumae, the first Greek colony to be founded on the Italian mainland (and now found within the city of Naples). Her legend became a focus of early Roman history thanks to the writings of Virgil (via his Aeneid VI), Ovid (in his Metamorphoses) and others.
In particular, Virgil’s tales of the Sybil (together with an anonymous author) refer to her living within an unusual cave, a trapezoidal passage over 130 metres in length cut into a hill, ending in a chamber. Here, according to Virgil, she would prophesise by “singing the fates”, then write the results on oak leaves, which she would leave at the entrance to the cave. It is this cave – or passage – which forms the core of Giovanna’s Sybil, its entrance forming the landing point, where can be found a brief introduction.
Red figures line the tunnel, mostly likely those seeking insight into their lives and future through the words of the Sybil, whilst at its centre, she awaits in her chamber, ready to offer you her cryptic advice – but be warned: the Sybil of Cumae was famous for her prophesies often having two meanings, depending on how one chose to read them…
Across the aisle from the crypt, is a statue of the Sybil, a somewhat ghostly form – reflective, perhaps on Ovid’s tale of her fate following her trickery with Apollo (and his with her). In return for allowing him to take her virginity, she asked him to grant her as long a life as the number of sand grains she could hold in one hand – only to then deny him once the wish was granted. Apollo, on the other hand, whilst granting her extraordinary longevity, did not also give her matching youth and health – because she did not ask for either. Thus, over time she aged, withered and faded, becoming a shadow, a voice in the darkness.
Along the hall containing the shadow sculpture of the Sybil are further pieces that both directly reference the Cumaean Sibyl – Enigma, referencing the duality of her words – and indirectly – Consumption, perhaps referencing the fact that we are all eventually consumed by the passage of time, just as the Sybil was in Ovid’s tale, and Illusion, which appears to reference the illusion of time’s own permanence. Then there is Lovers, perhaps representing the preciousness of life itself, and in taking what we are offered rather than losing it or wanting something more.
Fascinating, rich in meaning and visual, Sybil is another engaging trip into legends and tales by an artist who is superb in her ability to interpret and present.
- Sybil by Giovanna Cerise (Museum Island, rated Moderate)