Psyche In Taenarus

This piece was created as an homage to the Fillmore-style poster designs of the late 1960s. During that era, illustrators like Peter Max, Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Victor Moscoso, and Heinz Edelmann defined the gold standard of psychedelic graphic design. Although I loved and was much inspired by their work, I was also deeply frustrated to find that this coterie of bold and forward-thinking visual artists was exclusively male.

My determination to uncover these men’s female contemporaries led me to this poster concept. Psyche in Taenarus is an imaginary exhibit–for fun, I placed it at the Cooper Hewitt in New York–but the women whose work it would showcase are very real: Marijke Koger, a muralist, painter and fashion designer helmed the Dutch design collective known as The Fool; Bonnie Maclean was one of a tight, talented group of illustrators working for the Fillmore and creating poster art for the greatest rock musicians of the 1960s; and Věra Chytilová was an avant-garde filmmaker whose experimental techniques and controversial narratives strongly influenced the Czech New Wave. The exhibit’s title references the Greek goddess Psyche, who, in order to save her beloved Cupid, must journey through Taenarus (a cape at the southernmost tip of mainland Greece) and descend into the underworld–transposed here as “The Psychedelic Underground.”

The poster text was set in a Fillmore-style typeface and arranged so the surrounding negative space pushes forward to become the central image, which is a silhouette of Marijke Koger (below left). I scanned the fabric from a vintage halter dress, added chromatic filters to create a rainbow effect, and used clipping masks to fill the letterforms with the swirling floral pattern. Like the posters to which it pays tribute, this piece is not easy to read. Rather, it invites viewers to consider the relationship between type and space, and hopefully conduct a little visual sleuthing to decipher the text.