“Strange women, lying in ponds, distributing swords, is no basis for a system of government.” –Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Shalott. 2010. Acrylic and pastel on panel. 24 x 48 in.
This piece is referencing Tennyson’s account of the fictional Lady of Shalott. In the poem, the Lady is forbidden by a curse from leaving her weaving loom to look through her window to the city of Camelot below. One day, overtaken by curiosity at the sight, reflected in a mirror, of the knight Lancelot passing by, she flies to the window to look. Comprehending that her curse is now being realized, she leaves her home and sets off by boat for Camelot. She sings as she makes her way there, slowly dying.
The painting uses the story as a picture of passing from this world to the next (from the island of Shalott to the city Camelot), but may also be seen as a picture of a spiritual death and rebirth. The Lady is trapped in her curse, bound to the island of Shalott, until her own death brings her to the place she has desired – the Holy City, Camelot.
A line from Nabakov’s novel Pnin is written into the side of the boat in transliterated Russian and English: “…plila i pela, pela i plila…she floated and she sang, she sang and floated…” These lines are actually a reference to Ophelia, but I’ve used them all the same:)
Madonna of the Asteroids. 2010. Acrylic and pastel on panel. 24 x 48 in.
The mother of Jesus is seen suspended in space in a fantasy realm. The figure of Mary was used here to embody or serve as a metaphor for God himself. While on a retreat at a monastery, a priest was talking about the patriarchal history of Christianity. I began to think about God as Spirit, both and neither male nor female, and realized that gender is just a way we relate to the spiritual realm.
The Shakespearean character is depicted here as she drowns. However, the painting interprets her death as a positive symbol of spiritual death leading to rebirth. In both Shalott and Ophelia, water plays a significant role, as it does in the picture of a mikvah or baptism. Here Ophelia undergoes a completely different kind of death, a sort of drowning in a God – River (cf. Ezekiel 47, or Flannery O’Connor’s short story The River.)
This piece was begun in college, and only finished years later, in 2010. The woman is Jerusalem, which, I’m told, literally means “Possession of Peace”. Rather than making any statements about the physical city, I’m using it as a symbol for all who seek peace.
Trinity. 2012. Acrylic and pastel on panel. 48 x 36 in.
Two geese and a wounded person are seen lying in a road. I once heard a speaker say that if a goose is flying with its friends/gaggle, and is shot or wounded, two other geese will leave the group to stay with the fallen bird. They care for the wounded animal until it either dies or heals. In this case, the dying girl – the Christ – is cared for by two geese, Father and Spirit.
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.
Taking the child by the hand, He said to her,“Talitha kum!” (which translated means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).
Mientras por competir con tu cabello,
oro bruñido al sol relumbra en vano;
mientras con menosprecio en medio el llano
mira tu blanca frente el lilio bello;
mientras a cada labio, por cogello.
siguen más ojos que al clavel temprano;
y mientras triunfa con desdén lozano
del luciente cristal tu gentil cuello:
goza cuello, cabello, labio y frente,
antes que lo que fue en tu edad dorada
oro, lilio, clavel, cristal luciente,
no sólo en plata o vïola troncada
se vuelva, mas tú y ello juntamente
en tierra, en humo, en polvo, en sombra, en nada.
While trying with your tresses to compete
in vain the sun’s rays shine on burnished gold;
while with abundant scorn across the plain
does your white brow the lily’s hue behold;
while to each of your lips, to catch and keep,
are drawn more eyes than to carnations bright;
and while with graceful scorn your lovely throat
transparently still bests all crystal’s light,
take your delight in throat, locks, lips, and brow,
before what in your golden years was gold,
carnation, lily, crystal luminous,
not just to silver or limp violets
will turn, but you and all of it as well
to earth, smoke, dust, to gloom, to nothingness.
— Luis de Góngora (translation Alix Ingber)
“…I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever.”
“…it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life…”
Odd, odd movie. But somehow a lovely overall message…
A picture my niece drew reminds me of a book:
“Later he saw Jesus move from tree to tree in the back of his mind, a wild ragged figure motioning him to turn around and come off into the dark where he was not sure of his footing, where he might be walking on the water and not know it and then suddenly know it and drown.”
—Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor
Ich finde dich in allen diesen Dingen,
denen ich gut und wie ein Bruder bin;
als Samen sonnst du dich in den geringen
und in den großen giebst du groß dich hin.
Das ist das wundersame Spiel der Kräfte,
dass sie so dienend durch die Dinge gehn:
in Wurzeln wachsend, schwindend in die Schäfte
und in den Wipfeln wie ein Auferstehn.
I find you, Lord, in all Things and in all
my fellow creatures, pulsing with your life;
as a tiny seed you sleep in what is small
and in the vast you vastly yield yourself.
The wondrous game that power plays with Things
is to move in such submission through the world:
groping in roots and growing thick in trunks
and in treetops like a rising from the dead.
– Rainer Maria Rilke
(translation Stephen Mitchell)
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.
— Ernest Hemingway
“Here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron.”
— C.S. Lewis
This quote came to mind tonight…it was written by the author J.R.R. Tolkien’s friend about his book The Lord of the Rings; sometimes I think it can also describe people.