The Bathing of the Sphinx weaves the bodies of artists Renee Lai and Rosa Nussbaum and their experiences of art, land and femininity into Elizabet Ney’s personal history. Though the artists are separated by two world wars and an unreliable history, they try to find her through the conflicting narratives, through her own self created fictions. They attempt to understand their own fraught relationships with Texas, femininity, and struggles of being a woman artist. The video twines in and out of the past and the present, peeling back the layers of history in an attempt to contextualise Ney’s life and choices.
The motif of the sphinx functions as a main element throughout the show. During the artists’ research, they discovered an account of a missing statue of Elisabet Ney as a sphinx, an enigmatic self portrait. The sphinx as a symbol is strongly associated with riddles and mysteries. This lost sphinx is the guide and proxy to Ney’s past and our present in both the video and the main sculpture.