I was recently commissioned to create an artist book about Diana, the Goddess of Hunting and her encounter with Actaeon, the deer hunter. This story was new to me. I found the tale fascinating, but the twist of fate sad. Poor Actaeon, looking through trees at Diana bathing in a river, had no idea the merciless Goddess would turn him into a stag, only to be torn to pieces and devoured by his own hounds. At the same time I was impressed by Diana’s fierce will, independence, strength, her love of nature, her protectiveness over the young, and her power over men.
Diana and Actaeon resonated with me strongly because of my family history: I was born into a deer hunting family in Michigan, a sport where traditionally men hold all the power. This made me want to explore the idea of the powerful woman huntress—a modern day Diana.
Today, women hunters are the sport’s fastest growing demographic. They are skilled with bows and guns, love the thrill of the hunt, the community, the competition, the victory of a trophy, and providing food for their families.
I am intrigued by the idea that women have innate qualities that might make them better hunters such as patience and perseverance. Some say women even have better spatial vision, making them better able to see the deer through the trees.
Delving into Diana inspired me to create a series of artist books that will be titled Modern Day Diana. The first is Magnificent Beast, which pairs photographs of modern day women deer hunters with excerpts from Ted Hughes’ translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses story of Diana and Actaeon.
The book is bound using Kevin Steele’s multiple layer accordion structure. Looking through the layers of the accordion is like looking through the trees in the woods. The title is taken from a line in the poem:
To hurry and witness this last kill of the day –
And such a magnificent beast –
As if he were absent. He heard his name
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Limited Edition Artist Book
Edition of 25. Kevin Steele’s Multiple Layer Accordion. 12 x 3 x .875 inches closed. Fully extended, the accordion stretches out to 27 inches long x 12 inches deep. Opened out into circle/flower shape the piece occupies a space 24 x 11 inches. Accordion: archival pigment prints, Canson Colorline papers. Cover: binders board covered with handmade paper that looks like animal hide made by Andrea Peterson at Hook Pottery Paper. 2015.