In 1910, Claude Debussy composed a prelude titled "La Cathedral Engloutie" (The Sunken Cathedral). It is based on a Breton Legend, about the city of Ys, built below sea level, off what is today the Bay of Douarnenez. Due to a corrupt Queen named Dahut who had a Praying (more like Preying) Mantis habit of killing her lovers at dawn the morning after and hosting orgies, the sea turned stormy and angry in protest, and washed over the dikes and the gates were sabotaged by a Knight in Red. Dahut quickly went on to become a mermaid. The Welsh, btw, have a very similar myth. The name Par-is, in Breton, means "similar to Ys".
The Sunken Cathedral rises above the waters on a full moon and when the water is transparent. The sound of its pipe organ and its bells can be heard far inland.
As Catholicism dominated the landscape of Europe, eradicating everything that preceded it in a form of religious "cleansing", building cathedrals directly on the sacred sites of prior faiths, their adherents went underground, and in this case, their cathedral went figuratively underwater.
Miami-based Cuban emigre' Yolyanko Arguelles, who is fascinated with the occult, has recontextualized this legend into the present in a series called "La Catedral Sumergida", "The Submerged Cathedral", composed of exquisite figure line drawings, often several to one work . I had the opportunity to converse in Spanish with Mr. Arguelles at the opening of the show. He has won the grand prize for animation at Art Basel Miami. Twice. He told me he is still working on and refining an animation of La Catedral Sumergida, something I would love to see.
Some of the themes he explores in this series are those of evolution and potential, both personal and humanity's, in general. See here. And here This Cathedral also symbolizes what we lost, and central to this is femininity. The immersion in water, emergence based on the lunar calendar, all harken back to the time when Goddesses roamed our world and rolled out the stars at night, when there was healing of the entire being, and not just medical practice, when mercy was as important as law, and we had a plurality of codes to live by. Yolyanko's is not merely a nostalgic, sentimental vision, but a futuristic, energized, hopeful one, a longing for a fusion between what we lost and what we are, forward-looking to what we might be.
Collective Tattoo and Gallery is rapidly distinguishing itself as one of the premier galleries in the area with consistently well-curated shows, well-orchestrated, lavish openings impeccable space, and most of all, non-mainstream, high-quality work.
Collective Tattoo & Gallery, 601 Central Avenue, St Petersburg. The Show runs into mid-October.