My Cycladic Art
I love Cycladic art. The sculptures were made in the Cyclades islands for a few centuries around the middle of the third millennium B.C. I saw them in a museum I stopped into as I was cruising the Aegean Sea in the early 1990s. They had me at hello.
Not many pieces survived the centuries since they were created. Two pieces are on display at the Met in New York City, but they are in the center of a big hallway, under glass. One would have to to kneel on the floor just to look at them properly, and while they might deserve such a devotional stance, people could step on you as they rush to some other exhibit. Not pretty. The statues belong in a quiet room so that they can be yours to contemplate in a semiprivate atmosphere, but hey, no one asked me to design the placement of the art at the Met.
What was the original purpose of these magnificent sculptures? They were likely some sort of religious idols, and because many are female, and sometimes pregnant, a number of historians suggest they were fertility deities. That works for me.
Back to me. I bought a replica of one of the figurines at the Met 25 years ago. I loved her. I looked at this simple head all the time, and she inspired me. Something about the beauty and simplicity taught me that less is sometimes more. My mantra, “Sometimes more is just more, not better,” was born from looking at her sitting on my desk as I wrote and worked and tried to be my best self.
Then I did a stupid thing. I gave her away. To a guy. He gave me his first journal, one he wrote in high school, and I gave him my inspiration. When we broke up, I returned the journal; I knew it belonged with the others and to his legacy. He kept my beloved Cycladic head. I didn’t have the agency back then to ask for it back. But over the ensuing years, I thought about it. A lot.
Years later, we spoke and I asked for it back. He said he would think about it. Ten years later, I asked again and made the plea that it really belonged to me and my “self.” I told him I would be happy to buy him another one, but I wanted that one back. He refused.
Now, 20 years after I gave it to him, I have learned that giving yourself to another should never include that which is what you need in order to be you. I resisted getting another statue because I didn’t think it would be quite the same. Or maybe I thought doing so would be disloyal, and that I should instead continue to hope for her return. But a few weeks ago, as I was working at building a new writer’s life in Maine, I decided I would look to see what’s out there.
All these years later, I found her. She is lovely. She’s smaller than the one I had all those years ago and darker (“burnt green” is what I’m calling the color), and I love her as much, if not more, than the one I’d thought was irreplaceable. I am so grateful to have her sitting with me as I write this. It just goes to show so many things: You can move on. You can replace what you’ve lost, but you must do so in your own time and carefully. Oh, and you can bank on the fact that I will never give this amazing work of art to anyone. Ever.
Right on! I spend much of my days now trying to give stuff away as I contemplate downsizing. But not the few things that I see as self-defining!