Lydia McCarthy

26th of June 2018

A - DASH project space 

The American psychonaut, Terence McKenna, claimed in his seminal text Food of the Gods that ‘Eleusis was a cult of plant-induced group psychedelic ecstasy’. The veiled, highly secretive Elefsinian Mysteries have been the subject of much speculation, with psychedelic enthusiasts theorizing that the coveted brew, kykeon, was chemically related to LSD or magic mushrooms.

During her residency at A-DASH, Lydia McCarthy has made a series of psychedelic portrait, still life and landscape photographs inspired by the Mysteries. Using the Homeric Hymn of Demeter, trips to contemporary Elefsina and texts analyzing the annual initiation rites, McCarthy has constructed a bizarre, alternate universe. In costume, she places herself in the role of Persephone, Demeter and Hecate, the three goddesses at the center of the myth. Colorful photographs of cheap, synthetic objects from flea markets and euro stores contrast with black and white images of a post-industrial port town. These images place the Elefsinian Mysteries in a contemporary context, merging the sacred and the profane.

Installed at A-DASH as a shrine, photographs and objects become icons, in an ultimate homage to Persephone - queen of death, the underworld and the shadow realm.

Lydia McCarthy is a New York-based artist whose photographs and installations look at spiritual seeking, psychedelic culture and perceptions of reality. Her work has been exhibited widely, including 106 Green, Essex Flowers and the Scandinavia House in New York and NAU Gallery in Stockholm. McCarthy has been reviewed and published in The New Yorker, Art F City, The Wall Street Journal, Dossier and the Huffington Post. She received a yearlong American-Scandinavian Foundation Fellowship and has held residencies at the Banff Centre and the Vermont Studio Center. McCarthy is an Associate Professor of Photography in the School of Art and Design at Alfred University.