Artist's Statement

Content Warning: Sexual Assault

In Ovid's Metamorphoses, Medusa is a golden-haired priestess at Athena's temple. When Medusa refuses the advances of the sea god Poseidon, Poseidon pins her against Athena's altar and rapes her. Because Athena cannot punish Poseidon, she punishes Medusa by replacing her hair with venomous snakes and making it so that Medusa's gaze turns humans to stone. When the warrior Perseus beheads Medusa, her severed head continues to turn people to stone. Perseus gives Medusa's head to Athena as a gift. Even in death, Medusa's body is used without her consent.

Medusa is not born a monster: she is made monstrous. Her devotion to Athena and her refusal of Poseidon do not spare her from punishment. A god rapes her and evades punishment; a man murders her and is celebrated as a hero. It's fitting that Medusa's gaze is a weapon: her perspective has the power to obliterate the identities of gods and heroes.

This drawing was inspired by the work of Yayoi Kusama, whose installations feature the artist in a room engulfed by polka dots. In these installations, walls, objects, and even the artist's clothing are all subsumed by pattern. As a result, the artist's body is almost indistinguishable from its surroundings. Similarly in Medusa, the subject is engulfed in snake skin textures to the point that she is almost indistinguishable from the snakes which surround her. One may read these snakes a phallic metaphor and thus a symbol of the violence inflicted on Medusa by the men in her story.

About the Artist

Samantha Steiner is a writer and visual artist. She has received fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation and the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts. Find her on social media @Steiner_Reads.