Clara Jeanne Reed, Metamorphoses, digital photographs, 2020-2021

Inspired by Ovid's Metamorphoses, a classical epic dating back to 8 A.D that details various myths surrounding ideas of physical and emotional transformation, this series explores the romanticization of mythologies.  Drawing inspiration from history painting style prevalent in Italian Renaissance, these photographs aim to intentionally romanticize history to highlight our problematic obsession with the past, and out extreme desire to craft narratives for questions that remain unanswered.  Many of these myths are disturbingly violent and problematic, but often disregarded under this veil of beauty.  I hope this project will expose the absurdity and darkness of beauty, and the ramifications of our own obsessions with it.  The creation of these images has become an investigation into how history and folklore has shaped the way we view notions of power and space, who has the ability to move through it and who is given the voice to tell us the story.  

More than anything, these photographs are narratives that attempt to balance notions of power and desire, often in relation to gender.  This series has an emphasis on divine beauty and femininity, which correlates with voyeurism and spectatorship, in that beauty is something in which to be perceived.  In Metamorphoses, I attempt to show ideal beauty in all its forms of glory and consequence in an effort to romanticize the past while simultaneously contextualizing the present and hopefully reimagining the future.  There is so much power to be held in this exploitation of violence within the gaze, and the methodical investigations of those who desire and those who are desired.  

- Clara Jeanne Reed

m u r d e r  o f  a g a m e m n o n 

I will not apologize for fighting violence with violence.

I stand where I struck him and do not mourn his absence.

He killed thousands.

I killed one.

The line between justice and punishment is thin.

If I crossed it, let him first face Themis. 

For is he not the one who shed blood first?

Clara Jeanne Reed, The Murder of Agamemnon, digital photograph 2020

p y g m a l i o n ' s  m u s e 

Perhaps if I had spoken louder, 

allowed no other voice except my own 

to echo in the crevices of the space you left uncarved. 

Have you ever felt the weight of a thousand eyes?

Scanning your body, the shapeless form he trapped you in.

I don't want to be monumental.

Please don't remember me.  

Clara Jeanne Reed, Pygmalion's Muse, digital photograph, 2020

o r p h e u s  a n d  e u r y d i c e

I will remember the sweetness of your voice. 

I will remember the softness of your touch.

I choose not to remember our last glance. 

I choose not to remember the fall.

Somethings are better left untouched.

I hope you remember that the next time, 

you try to save someone other than yourself. 

Clara Jeanne Reed, Orpheus and Eurydice, digital photograph, 2020

a r i a d n e  i n  t h e  l a b y r i n t h

Perhaps I wrote my own death sentence.

I knew how high the fall was, 

but continued to approach the edge. 

I knew you would break me.

So I watched my body swing, 

tangled in my own string.  

Clara Jeanne Reed, Ariadne in the Labyrinth, digital photograph, 2020

p y r a m u s  a n d  t h i s b e

Clara Jeanne Reed, Pyramus and Thisbe, digital photograph, 2020

I do not believe the tragedy was our deaths. 

To die for one's own heart is honorable.

There is not a death more merciful, 

then to die because you gave your heart 

to hold in the hands of another.  

The tragedy is to die before that heart 

was made whole.

t h e  t h r e e  g r a c e s 

Nine months you swam in the blood of your mother.

Thrust from the darkness of Night into the arms of a stranger.

Helpless without the milk of the flowers.

We dance around to entertain those who sit on the throne,

but who holds more power than those who give the gift of life?

Clara Jeanne Reed, The Three Graces, digital photograph, 2020

j a s o n  a n d  m e d e a

What was once love turns to hate.

Which is stronger?

Which burns brighter? 

A woman scorned, they say.

A woman broken.

A woman, there is none hated more.

Will I be cast aside for thinking of myself first? 

When every decision a man has made was out of self interest?

I cannot condone my actions, I cannot excuse them.

Only the sweet waters of the River Lethe can cleanse me.

I only aim to explain the weight of my grief, 

An avalanche I couldn't stop.

For those who give the gift of life, 

can always take it away.  

Thus begins our story. 

Clara Jeanne Reed, Jason and Medea, digital photograph, 2020

a n d r o m e d a

Drowning beneath the waves,

or dying from the thirst.

I am not sure which is worse.

If I stay here long enough,

you might get an answer. 

I will continue to resist these chains, 

that were placed there by no will of my own.

I will continue to fill my lungs with breath after breath,

until there's no air left for yours.

I will not ask to be rescued.

A damsel only in distress at no fault of my own.

This mess was not my making.

Clara Jeanne Reed, Andromeda, digital photographs, 2021

t h e  d e a t h  o f  a c h i l l e s

Born from the sea, 

The waves shall heal you.

The tides will revive you.

The water will breathe life back into you.

The gods don't answer these prayers. 

Not when honor is prioritized over a beating heart.

I hope the survival of your name throughout the histories, 

the name I gave you, 

is enough to nourish you in the next life.  

Clara Jeanne Reed, Thetis and Achilles, digital photograph, 2019

h e l e n  o f  t r o y

Beauty means nothing without eyes to recognize it.  

Clara Jeanne Reed, Helen of Troy, digital photograph, 2019

r a p e  o f  p e r s e p h o n e

My body is not one I recognize,

simply a union of flesh and bone. 

Touch feels arbitrary, it has no meaning anymore.

Trespassed against one too many times, 

you start to allow this narrative to rule your story.

Wait for the sun to heal you.

The broken mirrors will mend themselves.

Clara Jeanne Reed, The Rape of Persephone, digital photograph, 2020

c i r c e  a n d  s c y l l a

It is foolish to pin one's love upon another.

For in the event it is not returned, 

shadows are cast in the sunniest of places.

Such shadows crowded the fissures of my mind, 

the ones that used to be filled with hope that rivaled Pandora's 

Hope is the most dangerous of emotions, 

especially when you give it to someone else to hold. 

Clara Jeanne Reed, Circe and Scylla, digital photographs, 2020

d e a t h  o f  a n t i g o n e

I watched as his blood mixed with mine.  

Death by penetration and the convolution of two souls so unmatched

that even everlasting sleep could provide no escape. 

Memory exists after you close your eyes, 

and I find no comfort in remembering.  

Clara Jeanne Reed, Death of Antigone, digital photograph, 2020

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