“The Ferryman: At the Water’s Edge” is a digital painting I created that reimagines Charon, the ancient Greek ferryman at the helm of the Barge of the Dead, who carried the souls of the departed across the river Styx. In ancient lore, Charon was pale and skeletal, resembling a human corpse. My painting imagines that thousands of years from now, Charon will maintain his ferryman’s role, but is no longer frail, and the river he sails along is the “River of Forgetfulness,” where sorrowful memories of past lives are discarded.
His stony face and large body are etched from rock-like animated stone. As he emerges from the Wood of the Living (represented by the wooded tree trunks behind him), his dark sails unfurl, and he travels to collect souls from all stations of life, (represented by the horizontal rivers to the side of the painting). So, in the future, death is more “other”. Less human, still permanent, but more concretely so. Charon is moving (like a machine) yet unmovable (as a mountain of stone). In the future, his appearance is such a sure harbinger of death, that it is forbidden to give any one a gift that bears his image, because death would surely come quickly, leaving the giver vulnerable to the charge of murder and its punishment. The fear of death is permanent, but the ritualization of this fear changes.
Verneda Lights is a Gullah-born historian, physician, poet, science writer, and visual artist who has created many Afro-surreal and Afro-futuristic works. She draws upon the visual consciousness of the African diaspora, and uses the collective wisdom of healers and griots to interpret the multiple permutations of myth/ dreams/ realities across the space-time continuum. As the author of Dog Moon (poetry), Verneda is an early pioneer of rap music, performing with her band under the name Rikki Lights. Her visual art spans the spectrum of traditional (works on canvas and paper) to digital, and her work has been selected permanent display by the Boston Cyberarts Festival, Field of Vision New York City, The Sketchbook Project, and the Genovese Design Studio. Her digital painting, “View Thru the Eyes of a Ship” was published in the first installment of About Place Journal’s “The Future Imagined Differently.” As CEO of the multimedia design and business consultancy, E-graphX Omnimedia, Verneda currently hails from Port Royal, South Carolina, the heart of Gullah country.