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 them?

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 Dispensable
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.

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This page last updated: June 15, 1998