Artful Conception #8: Gigantic Floating Heads!
Since the dawn of civilization, there have existed certain “types” or “themes” that have persisted in the written word and art. For instance, the folklore (i.e. fairy tales and mythology) of basically every culture on earth all share striking commonalities. The gods of Greece are not all that different than the gods of India and the Norse gods. In fact, many of them share the same stories. The Epic of Gilgamesh is strikingly similar to the Biblical story of the Flood.
Indeed, comparative mythology is an academic field unto itself, and has some well known spokesmen. The Golden Bough by Joseph Frazer is one of the greatest surveys of humanity ever written, and Joseph Campbell has also written some great works demonstrating the intersecting lines across the millennia.
But these themes are not limited to our distant ancestors. You can see the archetypes continuing to this day. For example, the Star Wars saga is not all that different than Arthurian legend which is not that different than countless other Hero Cycles in other cultures. We may be more cognizant of our commonalities today, but they persist nonetheless.
One thing that has never been answered satisfactorily (and perhaps it is too deep rooted to ever uncover) is why. Why do we see these themes again and again, century after century? What is it about us humans that we have such an affinity for very specific themes?
Well, this is not an academic blog, so I’ll reign my thoughts in a little. Let’s just have a look at an example of imagery that still was alive and well in the art of the 20th century – the giant head. Perhaps it’s a stretch to link these old paperbacks and movie posters back to the Christ Pantocrator or the Olmec heads, but you have to at least admit there is a shred of similarity. I don’t for a second suspect that these artists are consciously continuing a theme as George Lucas did with Star Wars. However, it can’t be denied that that there’s something in us that reacts to this imagery, and the illustrators are well aware of that fact.
So, enough jibba jabba. Bring on the giant heads!!