Alzofon Art Institute
Explanatory Comments - Symbols
Classical Art -- AVisual Language
How odd it seems . . .
Western art contains a beautiful mythical language that expresses people's
connection to Nature. The Nature spirits of art are personifications of
the joy, peace, or solace we experience in wild places. But now Western
culture is severing all links to Nature, eradicating its presence from our
everyday life. How does this bode for the culture's long preserved Nature
symbols? Can these gifts from the past -- these symbols -- like Nature itself,
be dispensed with? Can the Nature spirits become obsolete? What I mean is,
what are we to do with the place in our hearts where the spirits continue
to live? What are we to do with ever calling feelings for Nature? How can
we stay whole, if we deny our yearnings by banishing all that satisfies
How does it feel to daily go outside, and see the Nature spirits that we
harbor within us assaulted and butchered from without? How does it feel
when we try to avert our hearts from this onslaught of pain?
How can this horror be expressed? My answer: Ironically employ the very
art form, with its symbols, that this destructive culture once used so beautifully
in the celebration of Nature.
Surveyor's Stake -- A Fresh, New Symbol
On wild land, seeing a surveyor's stake drags up feelings
of powerlessness in the face of controlling money-first people. It is avarice
and greed. It is the forced imposition of values that are antithetical to
the spiritual and intellectual health of people. Spiritual well-being is
threatened without wild places in daily life. We need local contact with
large and complex systems -- systems that always were, and always will be,
systems that have enormous and endless variety, places for contemplation,
getting centered, for creative, intellectual, and spiritual discovery and
stimulation -- Nature: God.
In spite of life's travails, we are comforted when we feel continuity with
the past. Wild Nature offers this kind of solace.
Each surveyor's stake is another stabbing assault on thoughtful,
aesthetic sensibilities. Each stake is a harbinger of painful deprivation,
universalized feelings of permanent loss -- the crushing end of eternity
and promise. All this is forced upon us, for no better reason than that
there are blind and greedy people who can- do it, all at the expense
of the beautiful wild animals and plants; and us -- the people who are not
replete with upside down values. We, who don't possess the exploitative
standard, know the riches that can be found within the graceful and free
things remaining in our midst.
Paintings with Surveyor's Stake:
Study for diptych The
Study for The Extinguishing
of Destiny -- Read about painting here.
The Female Figure -- Hamadryad
One traditional symbolic meaning of the female nude is
a Nature spirit. One of these, the Hamadryad, represents a stand of oaks.
The Hamadryad is noble, robust, and fertile, full of potential: She oversees
the health and wisdom of her trees. The trees are a domain -- a place
-- a graceful, wild, wise, and magic place where people go to meet God,
to meet themselves. Hamadryads were depicted as Nature's seductive playmates;
humans partook of their pleasures, solace and wisdom.
Hamadryads perish when their trees die, or suffer when their trees
are defiled -- their context destroyed, they lose their purpose. Because
of rampant overdevelopment, our endowment -- the Nature Symbols -- is being
systematically disembodied, along with Nature itself. To invoke Nature spirits
in traditional treatments, without expressing the present threat to their
very existence, would be a lie.
Also in the Idea Library:
What's New? | Shortcut
Entrances: | Studio
| Alzofon Art Institute | Guest
Wing, Link Room | Idea
Library | Academy |
can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
This page last updated: June 15, 1998