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  • Robert Brinkerhoff

Inferno XXVI: Bifurcations

Updated: Jun 25



Inferno XXVI: Ulysses and Diomedes Ink on paper, 2019 22 x 15” Inferno XXVI hosts a dramatic encounter between Dante, Virgil and the doubly-entrapped shades of Ulysses and Diomedes, who are bound together in a single flame. (fig. 16) Theirs is the most conspicuous of many thousands that feebly illuminate the terrain, and they are imprisoned within a forked tongue of fire for various sins: primarily the ingenious plot to inhabit the Trojan Horse with insidious raiders, and plotting the ingenious Trojan Horse raid, stealing the cherished cult statue of Pallas Athen, the talisman of Troy.

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The administrative work I've been doing for the past 2.5 years has been rewarding in many ways. I have certainly learned a tremendous lot about how the college operates, and have gotten to know the work of many extraordinary people. Most of all, I've been honored with the privilege to support the continuation of their good work, as teachers and artists.


It's been a little tough to switch gears from full-time dean—signing papers, settling disagreements and sitting in meetings—to resourceful artist with only a couple of spare hours a night to invest in the latter. The nature of the project I am doing hasn't allowed a ton of time to just sit and draw, to make mistakes, to start over. A drawing in this series can take days to complete, from sketch to finish, and nabbing an hour here and there isn't really the way to accomplish that. Still, I can only blame myself, because I've never learned to flip the switch from work to artistic pursuit, from left-to right-brained immersion on such short order. The job will end on 30 June 2020, however, as I have decided to forego renewal of the contract for another term, and return to teaching and studio work.

I had not been able to return to the series of drawings in a full year, due to work commitments, and I produced this drawing of Ulysses and Diomedes while teaching in Rome in summer 2019. Through an odd set of coincidences, I happened to visit the beach at Sperlonga, near Rome, and learned that the sculpture of Ulysses that I used as reference for his face in this drawing was originally located in the grotto of Tiberius, located only steps from my spot on the beach; and a later visit to the Vatican Museums brought me face-to-face with the sculpture of Athena that I used for another significant element of the image, the Palladium. Synchronicity endures. My life and that of Dante are intertwined in astonishing ways, and my process is likewise a humble mirror of his narrative—both personal and poetic.

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