Trustman Art Gallery

WELL: Audio Guide – Deities Depleted

April 16, 2024

Transcript by Gallery and Curatorial Fellow Cat Teo

Deities Depleted, 2021

In Deities Depleted by Eben Haines, cracked plaster frames a singed drawing of a Roman bust. In front of the blackened drawing sits a candle, half burnt, the wax melting onto the metal sconce the piece sits upon. 

In Haines’ work he often uses figures based on  Ancient Roman Patricians: wealthy, powerful men that were able to control many aspects of the political landscape during the time period. Haines’ feels that Ancient Rome is comparable to our present due to the immense wealth gap between classes. The people who hold the majority of the wealth have the power to make huge decisions and enact monumental change in our society, yet many of them only have an interest in benefiting themselves. Concerns about climate change and housing related issues often fall on deaf ears when it comes to the people who have the resources and power to affect real change in our world.  

Haines’ also comments on the protection that both Ancient Roman sculptures and the immensely wealthy receive. Ancient Roman sculptures have been conserved for hundreds of years by museums. The fact that they are exhibiting these sculptures communicates that they are of value, and, in turn, they are what society should also value. The billionaires and the ultra wealthy are afforded this same kind of protection. The sheer amount of money and power they have is unfathomable to most people. Just like the Roman busts, their appearance of importance and power secures and shields them. Their actions are left unchecked, their wealth is invested in harmful organizations and practices, and money allows them to escape from trouble. 

 The other motif that Haines’ uses here is a candle. In front of the drawing sits a half melted candle, representing that time is running out for humanity. With climate change and natural disasters on the horizon, it is only a matter of time before our planet becomes inhabitable. The irony of the Roman Patrician staring at the candle, emphasizes the issue that we face in the present. Another cohort of rich, white, powerful men are staring at the insurmountable problems of our world. Unflinching and willfully ignorant, these men continue to overlook the impending and apocalyptic future we are heading towards.

Deities Depleted calls attention to the people who are willfully ignorant to the imminent and catastrophic path we are on. It also comments on the limited time that our world has to change ecological and systemic problems our society is facing. With this in mind, how can we discourage willful ignorance and the preservation of the people who perpetuate this negligence? What other groups of people deserve the protection we give to the wealthy? And how do you believe we can call attention to our time that is running out?



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