PriusDominatus is a project honoring the ancient Greek contributions to modern democratic-style civilisation.

In Latin, "Prius Dominatus" is "Before Domination". This project is a study of tyranny, defined literally as "the rule by fear", and the contrasting leadership styles of matriarchy and patriarchy. Set in a fictional classical period setting of a time in Hellenistic Greece just prior to the conquering by Rome.

PriusDominatus invites the viewer to ponder the fall of Democracy, the nature of the sexes, and the influence of fear. This large-format oil painting re-imagines the moment Rome conquered Greece and fear overcame reason.

At some point in ancient history, Tyranny, the "ruling with fear", overcame the participatory rule of reason, discussion, debate, and Democracy. The force and fury of a few came to dominate- and drowned out the compassion of the masses, and indeed, inundated the will of the individual. Eventually, an Empire of the will of one man enslaved the population of most of the inhabited continents of the planet Earth. In recorded history the hatch-ling notion of the rule by reason and agreement of all, was tentatively structured in ancient Greece. It was immediately devoured by a crouching dragon-fire of rage and the irrational attempt by one man to think for all.

PriusDominatus takes one back to this moment and searches blindly through pre-recorded history to find notions of a time before Empire; a time that had a civilization so different in contrast, so opposite in nature, that it inevitably inspired a vehement reactionary, tyrannical fight, which sent groups of men forever screaming up a violent path of sexist, misogynistic, masochistic, sadist, impossible, and apparently unsustainable heights.

Heights they climbed forged the Gods of Olympus-- a small, esoteric group embodying all arrogance, aristocracy, myopia and greed. Later it would alter those they re-named, so that they became unrecognizable, before ultimately murdering them to discover two new Gods to worship-- Gods of extreme distance and depravity-- and a new structure of government as well, defined by the extremest nature of the worst of the two.

This Devil defined authority and authoritarian nature in no more empirical a fashion, and charged categorical observation and communication with vengeance, censorship and imprisonment. Indeed, the legacy of Empire is that same pure, unbridled insanity. For all who attempt it; from its imitated form in those participant nuclear family units, to all of bureaucratic composition itself; have inevitably gone "king-crazy", and as unmanageably mad as old King George. Humanity may yet learn directly to end that barbaric effort of the attempt to burden one man with the lives of many, and in doing so, surrender the impossible practice which leads all humankind to believe they must live and think as one.

From the paranoia of Emperor Qin, through the brutality of Caligula, to the madness of King George III, this repeating horror eventually inspired a renaissance of reason; the rise of the Enlightenment birthed a fledgling new force upon whose principles a new country was founded -- and, on trembling young limbs, America stands still reeling.

Athena Reshoot
Model Karley Blake by Photographer Erik Oginski

In order to better capture a Hellenistic period sculptural 'wet fabric' style in the statue of Athena, further research demanded a reshoot of the Athena character. After several studies of the initial photograph of Athena it became evident that the anatomy of figure would become obscured upon conversion into a sculptural form. Using Nike Athena as a reference point, a new process was developed to treat certain fabric to best approximate the delicate transparency as well as the intricate wet folds clinging to the skin surface.

Athena statue conversion study
nike samothrace
Nike Samothrace By Lyokoï88 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Greek Photographer Photographs Acropolis

Greek Photographer Christosomos Kamberlis, Photographer and Travel Advisor from Trip and Trail (, travelled to the Acropolis in Athens, Greece to photograph the background view for PriusDominatus.

Acropolis at Dusk by Christosomos Kamberlis
'Acropolis at Dusk' by Christosomos Kamberlis
LA Photographer Signs on to Project
photographer erik oginski
Photographer Erik Oginski

"Erik Oginski is a Los Angeles-based photographer whose work currently focuses mainly on editorial, events and street photography. Erik has a background in journalism and spent 13 years working in broadcast news before transitioning into marketing. Photography has played a significant role throughout his career and his work has been featured in international publications and media."


LA Model as Athena
Model Karley Blake
(Makeup artist/Hair Stylist Brenna of Brenna Bones Artistry)

"Karley Blake is a model and actress from Los Angeles, CA. Her main focus is on art projects, but her portfolio also encompasses fashion, commercial, and editorial modeling. In her spare time, she volunteers and advocates for animal welfare."

Celtic Athena
Oil Study of Karley Blake as Celtic Athena from photo by Erik Oginski

In this version of Athena, one must concede that Greek civilisation discovered an increasing tolerance for violence through the Roman period, and may have been the cause for eventual Roman conquest. For this variation, Athena clings more to her legacy of wisdom than of war, holds the torch of freedom, and is companioned by an owl.

Athena with Owl on Ancient Greek Coin By - , CC BY-SA 3.0

She remains un-armored, having no Gorgon shield bearing the decapitated head of snake-haired Medusa; leaning on no spear, and she holds the torch of freedom instead. The torch is referenced directly from the French Neoclassical Statue of Liberty. Not visible in this study, these new accoutrement, along with the traditional semi-transparent fabric of her tunic, and her high-wound sandals, combine to form a "Celtic Athena".

Athena By Tetraktys - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Attic red-figure kylix showing Athena slaying the Gigante Enkelados (c. 550–500 BC). By Oltos? (Louvre), circle of Psiax (Mertens) - Marie-Lan Nguyen (2007). Image renamed from Image:Pallas Enceladus LouvreCA3662.jpg, Public Domain

Celtic Athena represents a theory that before Gods were Gods, they were signposts to unite and welcome a global trade network of vastly differing and specific nationalities. As in ancient Rome, a sign for the Fishmonger, was simply a painted fish.

Fishmonger shop in Rome.

This enabled muli-linguistic commerce directly, with no diplomat, translator, or intermediary faction present. The story of Athena, as springing from her father Zeus' forehead, may be cartographic prose, describing relative global positioning and location. It could be a detailed desciption of an important trading partner, easily remembered and transferrable through time and generations. In a similar light, Athena's owl companion is a symbol of wisdom, but it is also a regionally specific identifier honoring the great Norse shipbuilders.

Athena springing from the head of Zeus By User:Bibi Saint-Pol - Own work, Public Domain

The Tawny owl found in the southern region of Sweden, Norway, and Finland, in the great bay of the Baltic Sea, where ships, built on commission, and launched to sail around the globe in every nation's fleet, along the pre-ancient trade routes. In this day, not built for war, but for trade. The Tawny owl is perched upon the carved bow of a later-era Norse warship to further reinforce this regional connection. So in this version, Athena is a welcoming beacon of trade for Celtic peoples, and the Parthenon is a foreign embassy.

tawny owl
Tawny Owl
LA Model as Prostrate Female
Model Maura Evelyn
Oil Study of Maura Evelyn as 'prostrate female' from photo by Erik Oginski
Prostrate Female

The centerpiece of the composition and central figure is informally referred to as the 'prostrate female'. Both the name and languid pose denote stereotypical female vulnerability in extreme and dramatic gesture; inherent in and complimentary to; the diametric opposition displayed in this work's concept dynamic between male and female, matriarchy and patriarchy, as displayed by the two main characters of this piece. This figure, with bared neck, exposed midsection, and lack of firm or natural support and connection to the very ground beneath her, exemplifies a familiar female vantage constructed within a patriarchal society. This common stereotype and socio-economic construct best exhibits a universally relatable concept: that of one human's domination over another. In the simplest and most extreme sense, this pose is instinctively evocative of one who has been removed of dignity, grace, and formality; it is extreme submission. This artistic rendering however, adds a twist.

Hellenistic funerary wall painting
Hellenistic funerary wall painting

In ancient classical painting, the male figure is always colored with a deep bronze skin-tone, as seen in surviving wall-paintings and tile mosaics from ancient Hellenistic Greece and Rome. Women are painted using a series of light gray tones and are much more pale in comparison to the deep, reddish-brown coloring used to indicate males. This is a result of ancient tendencies toward sexual distinction both in everyday life and in art which is challenged by the foundational concept of PriusDominatus. The 'prostrate female' displays a posture of inherent weakness -- while at the same time being colored in a tone usually reserved for males. Men spent their days outdoors in the heat of the sun and women were 'kept' indoors. The exaggerated musculature, especially in the thighs, adds another indicator of strength further complicating the paradox, challenging the ancient and modern sexual stereotype. The archetype for the pose specifically, is also an affront to age-old assumptions about power.

Peter Paul Rubens. The Descent from the Cross (1617–18), (Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille)
Peter Paul Rubens. The Descent from the Cross (1617–18), (Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille) By Photo taken by Remi Jouan, Mars 2007, Public Domain
Fra Angelico. Deposition of Christ, Fra Angelico (1437-1440). Tempera on wood, 176 x 185 cm. Museo di San Marco, Florence By The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain
Caravaggio. The Entombment of Christ (1604). Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome By The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain

The historical reference for this character is not only Hellenistic period Greek and Roman painting, but also a popular Renaissance motif. This pose is an interpretation of the religious theme popularized by the Catholic church known as the 'Descent from the Cross', whereby Jesus is supported and cradled from the cross by a devoted group of his followers. Here, a more modern observation is revealed, and the female -- poised as the epitome of vulnerability and sacrifice -- levitates unsupported. This gender-swapping of the typically male sacrificial role further challenges ancient assumptions regarding domination and the interpersonal gender power dynamic.

Rogier van der Weyden. The Descent from the Cross. (c. 1435) Oil on oak panel, 220 x 262 cm Museo del Prado, Madrid By The Prado in Google Earth: Home - 7th level of zoom, JPEG compression quality: Photoshop 9., Public Domain
Jean Jouvenet, The Descent from the Cross (1697). Musée du Louvre, ParisBy Own work, Public Domain
Antonio Ciseri. The Deposition of Christ (c. 1883)By SIKART dictionary and database, Public Domain

Levitation of the figure references modern technological innovation as the inevitability of Her salvation. She floats upwards, bisected by a red laser beam to reinforce visually the presumed harm to which she is subjected. This concept is taken directly from a little known theoretical spacecraft propulsion method called 'photonic propulsion'.

Photonic Propulsion on YouTube

Photonic Propulsion powers a spacecraft with a laser beam and solar panels. It is theorized that such a spacecraft would be lighter, needing no fuel storage, and traveling faster due to the nature of the medium, arrive at Mars in just three days.

An actual NASA test in a lab on YouTube

In this metaphorical interpretation, skin and body surface area of the 'prostrate female' represent solar absorbtion material which generates power. The laser beam appears viscerally as a wound, but completes the power cycle of the metaphor when united with scientific understanding, raising this craft eventually above and beyond the looming power of tyranny and patriarchy as it is represented; the hope of all humankind.