03 Dec Sensual & Spiritual: Andrew Davidson’s Gargoyles
I’m not sure why Andrew Davidson is fascinated with gargoyles. Perhaps that answer can be found in the many interviews published online or in his u-tube promos of his 2009 book, but until I’m ready to explore those avenues of answers (I don’t want to come across any spoilers), I’m just going to talk about it.
From the first small, stone gargoyle Marianne Engel leaves for our main man on his hospital bedside table, to the dozens of half-carved creatures in her basement, the descriptions of these beastly but beautiful beings is as intriguing as the statues themselves. Infused with imagery, Davidson’s writing lends life to the gargoyles, much the same as Marianne Engel’s carving breaths life into them, as she brings them forth from their stoney homes.
The first gift, the small gargoyle is said to be “sweet and sad and somehow all too human, like that of a forlorn man who has spent his entire life dragging himself from one tiny accident to another until the cumulative effect has crushed him under the weight of words he can no longer speak.”
Marianne’s workshop is lit with hundreds of candles (which our man doesn’t like). Classical music streams from the speakers, tools on hooks line the walls, while a coffeemaker sits waiting to perk Marianne’s favourite brew. Once possessed with the urgency to bring forth the life in the stones, she needs caffeine to keep her going, carving for days on end. Incomplete “monsters” are scattered about. “A half sea-savage was using her webbed hands to claw out of a granite ocean…The upper body of a terrified monkey burst out of a lion whose legs were not yet carved…A bird’s head sat on the shoulders of a human…”
It’s all very sensual, both beautiful and disturbing, much like our man himself; He who began life strikingly handsome, only to be reduced to some monster-like, burned being. Unquestionably there is a very sexual element to the scene, as Marianne always carves in the nude, but there is also an ethereal quality, a respectful, spiritually driven component, as the art is brought forth, raw, naked, real.
“In the midst of these rough gargoyles, Marianne Engel was sleeping upon a huge slab of stone, undressed except for the necklace whose arrowhead, resting in the valley of her breasts, moved slightly up and down with the rhythm of her breath. She was at home here, the nude once danced upon by the shadows and light, her hair twisted around her body like wings woven from black rope. She clung to her rock like moss waiting to absorb the rain, and I couldn’t remove my eyes from her glorious body.”
Wow…that’s sexy. And smart. Who knew gargoyles could be so sensuous? Although to be precise, the creatures Marianne carves are grotesques. Here, an excerpt from cornell. edu.
Until next time,
We tend to call any piece of architectural sculpture that depicts animals a gargoyle. Strictly speaking, however, gargoyles are decorative waterspouts that preserve stonework by diverting the flow of rainwater away from buildings. The word, gargoyle, derives from the French gargouille, or throat, from which the verb, to gargle, also originates. Although the sculptural waterspout originated in Antiquity, it grew in popularity on Romanesque structures, and proliferated during the Gothic period. Grotesques, while similar in appearance, serve a variety of other practical and ornamental functions, as corbels or capitals, for instance. The term, grotesque, can apply to any fanciful human or animal form, especially when it indulges in caricature or absurdity. These sculptural creatures appear most commonly on religious structures, but also on university buildings, town halls and even on homes. Until next time,