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John Books: Oxen of the Sun

John Books: Oxen of the Sun

Curated by Nadia Kurd

Drawing inspiration from Homer’s epic The Odyssey, the exhibition The Oxen of the Sun features an array of bronze sculptural works by Grand Marais-based artist John Books.  Small and tactile, these works have been made using bronze casting techniques that can be traced back 6,000 years and continue to be used in parts of Africa, India and Japan. More importantly, these works are Books’ response to the continued degradation of life on Earth – as he writes, “I despaired of the seeming inability of human beings to moderate the gratification of their needs and desires so as to preserve the conditions that sustain them. After much searching, I came to see that this behaviour, despite repeated examples of disaster, has been there from the beginning.”  The Oxen of the Sun is an exhibition that ponders our current future while tracing back to ancient processes and humanist themes from the past.

 – Nadia Kurd, Curator

Oxen of the Sun refers to a passage in Homer’s “The Odyssey”. In it, Ulysses and his crew, having survived many dangers together, are stranded by unfavourable winds on the island of Thrinakia. They had been warned, should they land on this island, to not harm the sacred oxen that belonged to the Greek sun god, Helios. Still wind-bound after a month, having gone through all their provisions, they were without any water or food. While Ulysses was climbing a mountain to pray for help from the gods, his companions, in desperation, took what was close to hand and lunched on the sacred. The next day the winds relented and they set sail. Suddenly, a storm arose and all drowned except Ulysses.

John Books

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