a-maze-ing: of minotaurs and men

Once you are in you’re in. If you make a myth your matrix and if that myth is centered upon as ancient and potent a concept as the Labyrinth, you build it around yourself without becoming aware that you are lost in the thing. Finding your way out only takes you deeper in, and the only way out is the way in. Myth tends to  lengthen and thicken, coiling like a labyrinth around itself.

---Michael Ayrton, Arkville Maze , Delaware, New York, 1968-1970. Courtesy Erpf State, NY Photo: Georg Gerster © Age fotstock--- Read More:http://www.artsblog.it/galleria/per-laberints-bbbc/11

For Michael Ayrnton it was a re-shaping of the legend . Virgil recounted the outline of the myth of Daedalus in Book VI of the Aenid, describing the reliefs that Daedelus cast for the great temple to Apollo that he founded on the summit of the Cumaean rock. Perhaps there is a parallel between the myth and the facts of our own time which become more explicit with study. For Ayrnton, the head and then the whole figure of Icarus reshaped itself, evolving into something as remote as an astronaut, yet piercingly immediate in relevance. But once in the Labyrinth of Daedelus, can you find a way out of the myth itself without getting deeper embedded? Eventually becoming entangled in the long complicated and curious history of mazes which began at least five thousand years ago, apparently of Egyptian origin.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Icarus. ---The notable thing in this painting is the fact that the anecdote of Icarus’ pride disappears in the margins of the painting. The attention is focused on the farmer with his plow, on the shepherd and his herd, on the harbor and the ships – on the economy, in fact. The real transformations are taking place in the society and a mythical hero such as Icarus has become marginal. "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" touches upon the Greek myth of the tragedy of Icarus. As we know, according to Ovid and Appolodorus, Icarus, son of Daedalus, took flight from imprisonment wearing the fragile wings his father had fashioned for him. Heedless of his father's warning to keep a middle course over the sea and avoid closeness with the sun, the soaring boy exultantly flew too close to the burning sun, which melted his wings so that Icarus hurtled to the sea and death. ---Read More:http://www.bouwman.com/netherlands/Landscape.html

( see link at end) …Ayrton was obsessed by Daedalus, although some might argue that his real obsession was the Minotaur. He retraced many of Daedalus’s steps through the ancient world, duplicated some of his feats (such as casting a honeycomb in pure gold) and decorated a London restaurant, the Minotaur, entirely with his paintings and drawings of the monster. He also wrote an impressive novel, The Maze Maker, in which he dramatizes some of his conjectures about King Minos’s maze and its meaning. He gives it a dual center (“two chambers separated by a maze within a maze”) and adds that “these rooms were conceived as symbols of the juxtaposition of the sun and the moon. The maze between them took exactly as long to penetrate as the time when the sun and moon may be seen in the sky together on the day at the center of the year.” As for the maze’s coiling shape, it was inspired by ancient memories of primitive man’s wonder at the entrails that spilled from slaughtered men and animals. Read More:http://www.davidwillismccullough.com/brick_maze.htmla

In the ancient world, everything meant both itself and something else. A ritual devised for one purpose could come to represent another, and that coded language has been lost, as if we are without instructions and out of connection with the maze’s central concern of a complicated circling passage to the center. The coil and its passage to finish in a sort of climax.

---Michael Ayrton Title The Arkville Minotaur Medium bronze with dark brown patina Size 86 x 0 in. / 218.5 x 0 cm. Year 1968 - 1969 Misc. Inscribed Read More:http://www.artnet.com/Artists/LotDetailPage.aspx?lot_id=21308BA7B9DF8F3704774708423E0F49

There is early evidence to suggest that the defense of walled cities involved maze rituals. Joshua’s circling of the walls of Jericho, which caused them to fall, coincides with the ancient convention that a maze has seven turns or seven “decision points” at which the intruder must decide between alternative routes. And the myth never died out with the maze being modified to mean the symbolic passage through life and death into redemption. But for the maker of the maze, our own personal mazes, our burrowing and building, the dialectic of protection and imprison, a flight through the sky and a tunneling in the earth, are all probably no more than the parts of a single greater maze which is our life. Each labyrinth remains ambiguous, serving as both goal and sanctuary, journey and destination and the materials we make it with, the mental constructions, are at once dense, impenetrable, translucent, and illusory.

---Michael Ayrton (1921 - 1975), Daedalus/Icarus Matrix (1968), bronze (ed. 9), 44.5 x 26.2 x 23 cm, Modelled in 1968. Provenance: Keith Chapman Gallery, London; Private collection; purchased from the above. Exhibited: Michael Ayrton, Sears Vincent Price Gallery, Chicago, April-May 1969, cat.15 (another cast); Michael Ayrton, Reading Museum Art Gallery, 14 June-15 July 1969, cat.---Read More:http://www.antiquesreporter.com.au/index.cfm/lot/338656-michael-ayrton-1921-1975-daedalus-icarus-matrix-1968-bronze-ed-9/

Such a maze each person makes around themselves and each is different from each other, for each contains the length, breadth, height, and depth of their own life. …

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4 Responses to a-maze-ing: of minotaurs and men

  1. James F.Reynolds says:

    I have heard about the Arkville Maze going back to 1998.I was always intrigued by the stories I heard from some of the at the time teens.I have read paragraphs,stories & seen pictures.Though all in all first hand is always the best.I was interested in knowing if there are tours or visit’s allowed to view the maze.I would find it an earnest & valued experience.The construction,beauty,story & appreciation that it has to offer,would be greatly appreciated by myself.If nothing of the sort is allowed or if it is,I would just like to know.Hope to hear from you.Thank You for your time.

  2. Rick Beck says:

    I hav resided at myhome in Highmount, NY for many decaides now, and would very much like to visit the maze on the Erpf Estate in nearby Arkville. Can you inform me whom I should contact to request permission for a visit?

  3. darius says:

    hey hey dave..
    i have seen the maze.. BUT would be interested in being able to call.. and make a daytime visit? is this still possible..? i have searched and found no info ?? any leads..? thanks D

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