Paris-based artist Saré (aka Evgenia Sarkissian) created a world of these odd little creatures she calls Zyuziki (plural). They are bumpy in all the wrong places. They stand together in weird ways. They wear weird things, decorated in odd ways.
“What seems ugly to us,they proudly reveal, and that does not make them ridiculous in the eyes of other Zyuziki. For us, yes, it may look like that, but to me it just means that we are not able to see ourselves. Who created the criteria of beauty? What does the appearance mean? How important is it? I suspect that we have different answers to these questions, and their answers I do not know. But, perhaps to their credit, ask us those questions and make us think,” Saré says in defense of her Zyuziki.
This post meant to be titled Meet The Artist: Saré (Evgenia Sarkisian) — a part of the Meet The Artist series of posts. It isn’t, though, because the cute little world of Zyuzikis reminded me of a certain fairy tale — Blue Star by the Russian writer Aleksandr Kuprin (1870-1938.)
I couldn’t find an English translation of it — not sure it even exists, so I’ll give you my own brief retelling. Here we go.
Once upon a time, since time immemorial, on the high plateau separated from the world by steep cliffs, deep gorges and thick forests lived peaceful, pastoral people.
A long time ago, no one remembers how many centuries back, a small regiment of strong, tall, clad in iron men crossed the treacherous rivers, climbed the steep mountains and reached this bucolic country.
The warriors liked what they found — a heavenly country with its gentle people, warm climate, delicious water and fertile land. There was no fight to conquer the pastoral country, for its peaceful inhabitants knew no evil, weapons or war. Thus the knights shed their heavy armor and decided to settle in these beautiful lands. Soon enough they won the hearts of local girls and married them.Their leader, valiant and noble Earn, became their King, and the country got its name, Earnaterra, since and forever. It was he, Earn the First, who taught the people of Earnaterra husbandry and horticulture. He opened them to writing and art. He gave them the rudiments of law and religion. Earn the First remembered the temptations, debauchery and wickedness prevailing in the “educated countries down there” he left behind, thus he ruled to destroy the mountain path to Earnaterra, making the heavenly land forever unreacheable by any means whatsoever.Under the good and wise rule of various kings all of them named Earn, not knowing wars, crime and poverty for thousand years, beautiful Ernaterra blossomed magnificently. Through the generations, the descendants of the knights became indistinguishable from the local population — there was no longer any visible difference in either language or appearance. The physique of the ancient knights was completely absorbed and dissolved in the native looks.The language of the warriors, largely forgotten even by the kings, was used only at the court, in the most solemn ceremonies, often for expression of either elevated emotions or high concepts. The memories of Earn the First, Earn the Great and Earn the Holy remained forever immortalized in beautiful, enduring legends — the creation of national lore.A number of items that belonged to Earn the First were lovingly preserved in the ancient royal castle: his armor, his helmet, a sword, a spear and a few unintelligible words the king carved out with the tip of his dagger on the wall of his hunting room.
None of the Earnaterrans could lift this armor even an inch off the ground or swing the heavy sword, even with both hands, and no one could make sense out of the inscription on the wall. The three images of the king were also preserved. One was a mosaic tableau bearing Earn’s profile, another was a painted portrait and yet another — a statue carved of marble.
It must be said that every one of the three images of Earn the First were created with great love, artfulness and craftsmanship. Nonetheless, they were the subject of constant grieving. You see, the gentle Earnaterrans who adored their first monarch, the great, wise, just, holy Earn, collectively agreed — and with great sadness — that Earn the First was exceptionally unattractive. His face, although neither evil or repulsive, was, well, extraordinary ugly by the high aesthetic standards of Earnaterra. This is to say that Earnaterrans have been enormously proud of their own inherent beauty.
An ugly appearance of their first king has been forgiven, of course, thanks to the legendary beauty of his soul.
The laws of inherent similarities sometimes present people with strange whims. From time to time, a child is born looking nothing like his/her father or mother, not even like his/her grandparent or great grandparents, resembling, however, some distant ancestor generations removed.
Chroniclers recorded the births of an exceptionally ugly sons that sometimes occurred in the Earn royal family, although in the course of history these phenomena became more and more rare. Interesting that these ugly princes often possessed great high spiritual qualities: kindness, intelligence, cheerfulness. Such a fair mercy for the unfortunate fate of the august freaks reconciled Earnaterrans with them in spite of the people being very judgmental in matters of beauty and appearance.
Good King Earn XXIII was a remarkably handsome man. He fell passionately in love and married the most beautiful girl of the nation. The royal couple remained childless for a very long time: ten years, counting from the wedding. One can imagine the jubilation of the people when in the eleventh year the welcome news that their beloved queen is with child. The people rejoiced doubly because with the royal birth a straight line of the crown inheritance was going to be restored. Earnaterrans were delighted when the Princess Erna XIII was born.Meanwhile, in the royal palace, the court midwife took a newborn baby in her arms and shook her head with great sadness. The fair queen glanced at her daughter and clasped her hands.
“Oh, my God, how ugly!” she lamented and burst into tears. But, in a moment, she came to her senses and said, “No, no, let me hold my little darling. I’ll love her twice as much — the poor baby is so ugly.”
“Ah,” said the august father, “The fate is so cruel! I’ve heard of ugly princes in our dynasty, but the ugly princess is the first in the noble House of Earns. Let us pray that beautiful soul, heart and mind outweigh her physical appearance.”
The faithful people of Earnaterra wholeheartedly agreed. Let the newborn Infanta be of a beautiful spirit.
Princess Earna, meanwhile, grew by leaps and bounds, was cheerful and healthy child, growing ever uglier with every passing day, bearing striking resemblance to the portraits of the Earn the First. She was a beautiful soul possessing lovely inner qualities: kindness, patience, humility, attention to others, love for people and animals, clear, lively, precise mind and unfailing affability.
At this point, we’ll abandon Sare’s art, for, obviously, Princess Earna was no Zyuik…
…and considerably speed up the pace of the storytelling. One of the reasons of this hastiness is a spring snowstorm in Colorado. It damped over a foot of snow on Boulder, about a ton of which landed on our driveway and needs to be shoveled ASAP.
Thus, brevis in longo: To spare their ugly daughter’s feelings, her beautiful parents abolished mirrors in Ernaterra. For a very long time she had no idea how different she looks from Ernaterrans. A chance discovery of a single shard of mirror in her old nanny’s trunk devastated Earna. Distraught, she run into the mountains. There, she rescued a young man hanging off the cliff. He was tall and, by far, the ugliest creature she’d ever seen, speaking gibberish in a language that later has been revealed as French.
The French prince — and that who he was, for it is a fairy tale — nursed to health by Earna, had no trouble handling the ancient armor of King Earn the First and falling in love with a beautiful (oh, sorry, ugly) princess. “Oh, my love, how sad I’m not the most beautiful girl of Earnaterra!” she said. “Thank gods for that, my beloved blue star!” said the prince in Earnaterran. They married, departed to France, had an ugly (oh, sorry, beautiful) baby son. Poor Earna was happy to end up living among ugly people. Only the birth of an equally ugly child changed her perception of beauty. And also the revelation that the words carved on the wall of Earn the First’s hunting room in Latin said, “The men of my country are smart, loyal and hardworking, the women — honest, kind and intelligent. But — God forgive them! — they are exceptionally ugly people.”