Inferno (2010)  50 x 61 inches. Collage, ink and gold leaf on board.

This piece is a reconstruction of Dante Alighieri’s early 14th century Inferno using his lines of verse to create a text spiraling in all directions.

Inferno is the first portion of  The Divine Comedy, an epic poem written in three parts:  Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise.  Each portion is divided into 33 cantos which describe a journey to godliness vis-a-vis a medieval worldview.  I’ve never read The Divine Comedy in Italian but, in translation, I remember it as a whirlwind romp featuring she-wolves, gloomy caves, and ripe figs.

For this collage, I cut the pages of verse into strips of 2-3 lines each. Then I applied gold leaf randomly to some of the strips and glued the whole mess into a giant, undulating, spiral. The nine circles are painted with white ink to create spirals within the spiral.

This particular volume of the Inferno was a bilingual edition with the original Italian on one side and a Catalan translation on the verso. This allowed me to use every line of the Italian version without “loosing” any lines.

The nine circles are not entirely predictable.  Lust, Gluttony, Fraud, and Avarice are straight out of Old Testament conceptions of a life aiming to avoid sin. Heresy seems to be a friendly wave across the piazza to a Papal powerhouse. But Sullenness and Betrayal seem to me to be very vernacular kind of sins; relative to specific cultural situations, or even specific age groups, like teenagers, political parties, or reading groups.

I find myself unnerved most by the circle of Limbo. Limbo is the ultimate Hell.

Here are two details:

I am a librarian and artist living in Eugene, Oregon — where it is often damp and always green.

2 thoughts on “Inferno

  1. I love this piece, Claire. Do you have plans to exhibit your work anytime soon? I’d like to see more of it in person.

    I so enjoyed meeting you at the GEARs event this week! I’m sure we’ll bump into each other again soon.

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