The Odyssey

Sharon Garber reading Greek myths next to her paintings. Garber’s work is inspired by Greek myths such as the hero’s quest in Jason and the Golden Fleece, which she has depicted in the top painting.

Magical things happen to people in Naxos all the time. Today, Naxos is the biggest city on an island of the same name, the largest of the Cyclades. But historically it was invoked by Greek poets as a pile of naked rocks, a landscape created for suffering. That was what Ariadne, the older daughter of King Minos of Crete, thought to herself when she awoke there, alone on a rocky beach, and realized that Theseus, the Athenian hero whom she’d helped to navigate the labyrinth and kill the Minotaur, had abandoned her on his way back home.

But suffering in Naxos was just the beginning. According to the myth, after Theseus’ ships disappeared behind the horizon, Ariadne heard a sound that grew louder than her crying. It was an ecstatic procession of satyrs and female followers of Dionysus, the god of wine, who promptly married Ariadne, making her a goddess.

Like many females of Greek mythology, Ariadne remains a symbol of female passion, anger and sexuality. Faithful Penelope, queen of gods Hera and murderous sorcerer Medea are all over artist Sharon Garber’s new work: their arms raised, their inner power released. Some of the pieces started as original paintings, some are negatives of photos she either took or directed, and then painted over (the cyanotype process). They are all framed in blue to represent the omnipresence of the Greek sky and sea.

Garber is still working and already planning to go back to Greece to paint Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. Sitting in her house near Veterans Park in Monterey, she is accompanied by a cat she “stole” from Greece. His name is Blue.

Garber: What do you think is the color of Aphrodite’s hair?

Weekly: Golden. But we have questions, too. What were you doing in Greece?

It all started with a photographic trip to Santorini in 2016. But then there was this British man. There were some issues that prevented me from hanging out with him very long. He took some of the photographs I’m working with, but I set all of them and it is me on the images. I painted over [the] negatives because I decided [the] pieces needed some personality. I returned from Greece six weeks ago. I’m not entirely unpacked yet but I already miss it. I already think about swimming in the Aegean sea.

Describe it for us.

It’s beautiful. Naxos is 98-percent marble, all quarried locally. It’s amazing. There are a lot of goats and donkeys around. People there are all about food and family. This has been my guidebook – Robert Graves’ Greek Myths. A lot of myths are set there and I have been exploring them. It’s interesting; all of those myths are about things between men and women.

What’s going on in your new painting? Who are those women?

Let’s see. This is Hera. She’s in charge and she has some business to take care of so get out of the way… And this is Dark Hekate [goddess of magic and spells], who turned her priestesses into trees. There was a fire, they all died, and now Hekate is upset and she will do something with the moon. And this one I called “The Shadow Dancer.” The goddess in the painting is really reaching out to her area of inner power, and you can see the wolf coming out from its cave to howl, enticed by the energy of the female.

What about your artistic life before Greece?

I have been painting my whole life. I’m a wedding photographer; I have also worked in the media and moved all over California, from Los Angeles to Santa Cruz. I studied anthropology and art and tried multiple things to discover they were not for me. I was looking for a more conservative area to live and ended up in Monterey in the 90s. For the last ten years, I have been producing cyanotype and gum bichromate images.

Is Monterey still home?

Yes. But I would love to spend more time in Greece.

So, again, you stole the cat?

Not entirely. The cat lived with me so I took it along. Like all Greeks, he is very gracious. I guess I named him Blue because everything in the Cyclades is blue. He’s all I need for now.

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