Ascension of Io
Ascension of Io tells the story of a girl named Io, her ill-treatment, harassment and enslavement by the Greek/Roman gods, the creation of peacocks, and her final freedom.
According to legend, Io, daughter of the River god and a mortal, was on the verge of being seduced by Jupiter (Zeus in the Greek) on the banks of a river. Jupiter had created a special cloud to hide his evildoings from Juno, his wife (Hera in the Greek). Seeing the odd- looking cloud, and having little faith in her husbands fidelity, she came flying in a sky- chariot.
Jupiter, sensing her approach, and being more concerned with his wife's wrath than the well-being of a mere mortal girl, immediately turned Io into a heifer to hide her from view. But Juno, well-versed in Jupiter's ungod- like ways, was not real satisfied with the picture of the father sitting by a river with a heifer and innocently twiddling his thumbs and whistling--as it were. She suspected the truth. Innocently in turn, she asked Jupiter for the Heifer as a gift, and he had to reluctantly agree--not being able to figure out a good reason not to--and Juno took Io away.
Io's mother and father, grieving the disappearance of their daughter, were puzzled by the persistent actions of a strange heifer who frantically pushed at them with her nose and lowed mournfully. Finally, Io, in desperation, scratched her name in the dirt with her hoof and her parents realized the extent of the tragedy.
Io fled from the torment of the gadflies. She ran all over the known world and swam the Straits of Bosphorous (from which it was named--meaning "cow-ford") to escape them.
Jupiter, feeling a trifle guilty, commissioned Mercury to deal with the monster Argus so that he might sneak in to help Io. Mercury disguised himself as a shepherd boy and succeeded in singing all 100 eyes to sleep. He then cut off the monster's head. Juno, finding her employee dead, plucked out all 100 eyes in a fit of rage and flung them at Jupiter's favorite bird (where they stuck to his tail) and accidentally created peacocks. Io's father petitioned the gods for justice. In the face of Juno's rage, and the petition, and one hopes, a twinge of pity, Jupiter admitted his guilt. Juno then also relented and Io was changed back to a girl. (Pity she couldn't sue, but this was before the creation of lawyers).
(Patricia Sheridan of San Diego County brought the Io story to Soderberg's attention and commissioned him to interpret it in bronze).
An Artist's Interpretation
Empathizing with the pathos of an innocent girl victimized by the whirlwind of the gods' lifestyles (and having daughters himself), John chose to portray Io in her moment of freedom--as indicated by the hoof print on the base directly behind her left foot.
After a gestation period of six months, Ascension of Io was born.
The composition of this sculpture is one of organic spirals and the mood is a curious blend of classical dance pose and exuberant natural innocence.