bg-pattern-4 bg-pattern-footer

Psyche Inspired: Levi Keatts

Institution: Virginia Commonwealth University

Major: Art Foundation (intended Painting/Mathematics double major)

Psyche Inspired Class: 2019-2020

Depiction of a woman dressed in ancient Greek attire holding a lamp. She is super-imposed over a depiction of the Psyche asteroid.

Psyche has a metal soul

Levi Keatts

October 28, 2019

Major: Art Foundation (intended Painting/Mathematics double major)

Genre/Medium: oil paint on aluminum composite panel

About the work: (16) Psyche is a metal asteroid that we believe may consist largely of nickel and iron. The team working on the Psyche mission hypothesizes that the asteroid may be the exposed core of an early protoplanet. When I was challenged to make artwork based on this mission, I immediately began to make connections between this information and the classical mythology and symbolism of Psyche, the goddess.

Psyche is the Greek goddess of the soul. It seemed very fitting to me that this asteroid that may allow us to learn about Earth’s core is named after the personification of soul, a concept that is the ‘core of humans’ in many spiritual beliefs. Because of this I decided to feature Psyche in her classical depiction for the focal point of my first piece. I also took the opportunity to use my personal artistic interest regarding the different optical effects of oil painting on various materials. For this painting I used translucent oil paints (and an opaque black) on ACM (aluminum composite panel). Using these materials allows the metallic panel to show though paint anywhere black pigment isn’t applied, giving both Psyche the goddess, and (16) Psyche the asteroid a metallic sheen. Hopefully this visually symbolizes the connection between the asteroid and its namesake. An additional optical effect of painting in this way is that the translucent oil paint creates a thin film over the panel. Because of this, you can see a slight chromatic shift in the painting depending on which angle you are viewing it from. It is most noticeable on the figure, which shifts from a cyan to a true blue.

After coming up with my general concept for the piece I still needed to come up with the specific imagery for my composition. I looked again to classical Hellenistic mythology and read a few translations of her story. In her myth, Psyche is depicted as a curious young woman. The oracle of Delphi instructs her father to abandon Psyche on a mountainside to be married to an inhuman suitor. This is done and Psyche is married to a being who is a wonderful husband, but she can only meet with him in the pitch-black cave. Despite being instructed to never lay eyes on her husband, Psyche illuminates his face with an oil lamp as he sleeps. In the myth this is portrayed as a betrayal of her husband’s trust, however, I believe that a modern eye looks at curiosity in a much more positive light. Curiosity is a driving force behind scientific advancements. Because of this I decided to feature her oil lamp as a symbol in my painting. Here she is using it to illuminate the asteroid itself.

View the full image