Art & Oppression: Artist's Statement

Calli P. McCaw

The Muses

The Muses of Greek antiquity have long inspired civilized society. In this portfolio, The Muses now respond to the existential threat we face in today’s turbulent world where personal freedoms, human rights, and civilization itself are in peril. Not only do they reassert command of their traditional realms of influence, they now also champion ideals of freedom, democracy, equality, and human rights for all as embodied in civilization’s great pronouncements— the U.S. Constitution, the Magna Carta, the U.S. Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Statue of Liberty’s poem (The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus), Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, the U.S Declaration of Independence, the U.N. 1951 Refugee Convention, and the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In fighting for universal values, The Muses, embodying all races and ethnicities, confront abhorrent nemeses—from war crimes in Syria and the Ukraine to the alt-right movement in America and across Europe. Armed with some of the most profound principles in human history, they shall resist. They shall persist. They shall prevail over tyranny, prejudice, oppression and demagogues.

I designed and fabricated the chitons worn in The Muses, respecting ancient traditions, equipping each with her traditional symbol, compositing them with historic documents and symbols of modern-day oppression. The Muses may be viewed as two separate series, one depicting The Muses as standard bearers of human rights and the other prevailing over many threats to humanity. They may also be viewed as diptychs—each Muse in her dual metaphorical roles.