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Enlightenment for Thomas of Coventry


1987
pencil on distressed paper, book page, nails, wood frame
8 3/4 x 8 3/4 x 1 1/2 inches

While working on Uranus: Castration and Concealment, one of the pieces in the alchemic, mythic, scientific installation entitled The Operation of the Sun Through the Cult of the Hand, the artist created this study that also relates to the story of Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom. According to legend, Lady Godiva was challenged by her husband, Leofric, Earl of Marcia, to ride naked through the streets of Coventry in order to gain relief for her subjects from his oppressive taxation. Out of gratitude, villagers agreed to cast their eyes aside; all except Thomas, who looked, earning himself the name “Peeping Tom.” The story also maintains that he was consequently struck blind. This work represents the “optical orgasm” of Tom. Impressed by the activism implied by Lady Godiva’s actions, yet disturbed by the moralism of the story, the artist felt homage to Tom was warranted. Chin maintains that rigid moralism can often cripple the vectors of imagination and limit the possibilities of recreating one’s world.

Note: Flemish artist, Adam van Noort, painted his version of Lady Godiva in 1586.

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