18″ x 24″ Original Graphite and Watercolor
As far as I can remember, I have never given an interpretation for one of my 200+ watercolors. I prefer the observer to form their own opinions and ideas. But this painting is so important to me personally that I feel it might be of interest to some. It is a multi-symbolic painting emanating largely from my unconscious. Creating it has been incredibly cathartic. The following contains a rudimentary explanation of the layers of this piece of art. There is much more to discover.
The title of the painting is a pre-Socratic term attributed to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus which means everything eventually changes into its opposite. In analytical psychology, Carl Jung described it as “the principle which governs all cycles of natural life, from the smallest to the greatest.” Literally, the concept implies that an abundance of any force can cause an opposite reaction. Positive and negative—this painting is a conjoining of the opposites.
The double-edged sword has several meanings to me. Positive: It is a symbol of courage and honor. In the King Arthur myth, only he was worthy enough to remove Excalibur, the sword in the stone. Negative: Hebrews 4:12 (which is noted) “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
This verse implies much of what I have experienced in religion. A militant and exclusive mindset that thinks it is a command from God to kill enemies of whatever particular religion one may practice. Hundreds of millions of people throughout history have been and tortured, raped, maimed, and murdered in the name of some “god.”
It is also a symbol of the piercing asunder of the people unlucky enough to be born or come under the influence of a religious sect. Most religious people are taught that the body is sinful and therefore, to be subjugated. The bloody sword inserted into the vagina (a sexual organ) symbolizes religion’s desire to control every person’s sexuality and reproductive rights, particularly women.
It also symbolizes the sundering of the wholeness of a person. Religion tears apart the authentic and unique person and clones them into fragmented slaves of their false beliefs. The fragmented blue-gray colors of death are interspersed with the healthy skin-hues of the person symbolizing gradual healing from the domination of religion. The lady is becoming whole once again, and the sword is slowly being removed—only the tip remains.
On a positive note, the fire that encircles the sword is a refiner’s fire. And it is a fire of renewed passion and light from within. It also has a negative connotation of an innocent person being burned at the stake by the church fathers. Many innocent women were falsely accused of witchcraft by Christians and stripped and burned—when in fact, the woman was either too powerful, seductive or had a physical ailment such as epilepsy.
In Ivanhoe’s story (one of my lifetime favorite books), this tragic scene is played out as the Jewess Rebecca is accused of witchcraft because she used herbs to heal the sick and because she refused the sexual advances of one of the Christian Knights of the Templar. She is rescued at the last moment by the champion Ivanhoe.
After painting mostly nude females for almost fifteen years, I have realized that in virtually every one of my watercolors, the female represents my anima (the feminine parts of me). There are myriad reasons for this. I will mention a couple.
After a lifetime of subjugation to religion, my body yearns for emancipation. My unconscious utilizes art as a communication tool so that my anima can portray and bring to consciousness the repressed, suppressed, and denied aspects of my actual being. Because of religion, my body has been the recipient of extreme shame. From a constant misunderstanding of my heightened sensuality, the taboo of masturbation and sexual pleasure, and the size of body parts—the humiliation I suffered as a young boy and man was devastating.
I have been criticized for the well-endowed nude females I portray in many of my paintings. This is an attempt to deal with the challenges of having body parts that are a different size than average. The life-long embarrassment and shame this creates for an adolescent in a highly moralistic environment cannot be overstated. While males can cover and hide their sexual organs, this is a near impossibility for well-endowed women. And of course, there is the positive symbolism and need for female nurturance and appreciation of physical beauty.
In many ways, as are most of my paintings, it is a self-portrait. The outstretched arms and crown of thorns are apparent negative allusions to being crucified —but not with (or as) Christ but BY Christ. Positively, there are no nails, I am free. The arms are relaxed but stretched out into what sociologists call a “power pose.” Our bodies have the potential to change our minds, our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can improve our outcomes.
The background is a giant stained-glass window. It has negative religious significance but also has positive symbolic implications. It is a circle, a mandala (a geometric configuration of symbols), which in this picture contains a quaternity (a set of four) of circles and symbols. The mandala and the quaternity have become extremely important as my healing continues, and I travel the road to wholeness and enjoyment. I talk about this extensively in my upcoming book The Quest: A Way To Enjoy Life and the live Quest experience and rite of passage at Kalien Retreat.
The four symbols represent the quaternal aspects of a complete human being—the body, mind, heart, and spirit. They also symbolize my four essentials—sensuality, curiosity, communion, and freedom. The circles overlap and represent all essentials working together holistically.
The colors are also symbolic. The blue background represents my favorite color, but also blue skies (free-thinking), the enjoyment of sunny days, and the blues of the ocean and the wildness, freedom, and rhythm it connotes. The outer circle represents my flesh—healthy and tanned, and life. The yellow circles represent the sun (much-needed for my emotional health) and the growth it brings to nature and mother earth.
There is much more I could say. I am stunned that this interpretation became this length—so I will stop here. I hope this helps your thinking and appreciation as you gain your own meaning, insight, and pleasure from this painting.
You can check out more of my art at elrodart.com
I am currently moving everything to this website and will add many paintings that are not available online. If you made it this far, my sincere thanks. Enjoy.