Application for Artist in Residence Program of Virtual Identity

Josh Ellingson, Artist/Storyteller

"Theseus, Rocky, and the Nature of Inspiration, A Graphic Exploration"

As an artist in residence at MuseumsQuartier in 2011, I explored links between the the mythical hero Theseus and the modern popular culture hero Rocky Balboa. These connections presented themselves in such strange and humorous ways that I thought it might be a good basis for a comic book project. Theseus turned up again and again during my stay in Vienna and it seemed like the scope of the exploration expanded beyond the planned comic. So, instead I created a Theseus vs. Minotaur mural near the Danube canal and filled sketchbooks with ideas for a more in-depth study later. However, after my residency the project lapsed and I focused instead on commercial projects to make ends meet.
In 2014, I was back in Vienna for a few days after completing a mural in the Austrian countryside for the KOMM.ST festival. Kunstforum Wein was exhibiting "Eyes Wide Open", a selection of photography by filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. Oddly enough, Kubrick was also interested in the story of The Minotaur. In fact, the labyrinth at the end of "The Shining" is a reference to the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. Most interesting to me through was the inclusion of an editorial series devoted to 1950s boxing champion Rocky Graziano. Kubrick chooses to portray Graziano as a mythical sculpted hero, mid career and holding on to his glory. I thought it was strange that Kubrick would also have been inspired by Greek mythology to profile a modern hero named "Rocky" sixty years earlier. The fact that this exhibition of his photography would be exhibited so close to where i held my residency and mere blocks away from the Temple of Theseus just made things weirder and infinitely more interesting. Further research on Graziano revealed that his given name was "Rocco Barbello", surely the inspiration for "Rocky Balboa".
I feel that the story of these discoveries would be of interest to anyone interested in esoteric connections, synchronicity, and the origins of inspiration. This residency would afford me the opportunity to finish the short comic that I started and also create a new non-fiction work that documents the connections that I've found while following this muse the last few years.


Rocky Graziano Sketch, 2014

Rocky Graziano Sketch, 2014

These are some examples of sketches and other artwork that I've been producing around this theme. Most  of my sketchbooks since 2011 have some part of the Theseus/Rocky story in them.  In 2012, I produced a limited edition screenprint of the Minotaur character. My hope is to turn this work into some sort of narrative form.