A caryatid, if you don’t know (I didn’t), is a support column sculpted into the shape of a woman. Rodin’s caryatid is a piece of his monumental Gates of Hell. The above cast resides in the North Carolina Museum of Art, and I think I’ve fallen in love with her. Of course, I have always admired pieces like The Thinker and The Cathedral. There’s much to love about Rodin’s works, but the caryatid, collapsing under the weight of the stone of her shoulder (representing destiny), stole my heart.
That’s not the greatest photo ever. She’s in front of a window, and the light was a little overpowering. I could only do but so much anyway. In the permanent collection, you can take as many pictures as you want, but no flash and no “professional” equipment. I probably made the docents nervous enough as it was without pulling out the fisheye or macro lens. But the above shot got most of what made me love her. (It misses the texture of her hair, especially where it’s pushed back from her face.)
She’s crumpled, a large stone pressing down on her shoulder, yet her face is serene. Her hands aren’t clenched and fighting the weight; her right hand supports the stone, her left grips the ground she lies on. If it hurts, she’s ignoring the pain. Or she’s used to it, resigned. She’s a support column, after all. Destiny’s toppled her, but she’s still obligated to hold it up. Does she do this out of duty or love? Is she just a support column, or is she more complex than that? If the stone’s weight is bearable, why doesn’t she throw it off? If she can’t throw it off, why doesn’t her face register pain?
What an apt metaphor for me lately. Feeling crushed, bound by duty, not showing the pain because hey, I signed up for this shit. I’m strong enough to hold up the stone. Not strong enough to throw it off. Not yet. But I’m building something inside, something that’s heating up under the pressure and will, soon, be hot enough to melt that fucking rock. Maybe molten rock will be worse, but I think I’m willing to take that chance.