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Adam and Eve: A Thread Through It All | Lovejoy Gallery
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I came back from Paris, sixteen years old, jaded and tired by the world I had just witnessed, and deeply angry that I was returning to Redding, CA, to my mother’s house, and to a “normal” suburban high school experience. I had never been normal, which is why we all decided that being an exchange student to France was a good plan for me in the first place. I needed to get away from Redding. I needed to get away from high school. I needed to find myself in the cultured streets of Paris. What we hadn’t counted on, was the city itself. Paris is notoriously the city of corruption. It has been corrupting youth for hundreds of years. Honore de Balzac wrote pages and pages of dramatic novel about the topic. And of course in my heart, that is exactly why I wanted to go. Of course, it worked. The other side of corruption is not what it appears. And so I returned, a cigarette smoking, sexual girl child, with a blaze attitude and a certain amount of hard won uncertainty.

When I arrived home I was at a loss for how to deal with myself, or the mundane world around me. I felt suffocated, constricted, by the town, the house, even my room. My room was the only thing I could do anything about. So one day, I stripped it down. I took everything off the walls, I pushed all of the furniture into the hallway, I took curtains, and nick nacks and stored them or threw them away. I cut up all of the pictures of me from my junior high years, and shredded most of my old paper. I moved my bed (now just a box spring and mattress) into the very middle of the almost empty room. I found all of the bright orange and red sheets and blankets, and I made my bed up with them. The bright bed contrasted the white empty walls in a particularly dramatic way.

My mother at this point, couldn’t decide whether to be afraid or angry. I think maybe she thought I was having a nervous breakdown.

Then I began the first intentional art piece of my life. I took five pieces of white drawing paper, and pinned them to one of the bare walls, so that it became one long piece of paper. I started to draw. What came out over several days of drawing was an oddly stylized tree with a snake coiled around it. This was the first Adam and Eve imagery I drew. Over the years I would go back to the theme again and again. I find that, while I have many subjects, styles, and patterns that I play with and return to, the imagery of Adam and Eve arrives whenever I am in a transition. Whenever I am not sure what my next step is. Almost like a resting place.

Over the years I have played with the imagery, and delved into the symbols. Processing what Eve means to me, what consciousness means to me, what Eden, God, and the snake, might represent. I have also read much about Lilith, but she seems not to appear in the imagery, though she is often the emotional sponsor.

When I had the vision for my new pieces, they were to appear in their final form as a triptych of landscape paintings with the energy nodes filling in the foreground of the landscape from ground to sky. So I had not (apart from the obvious Kabbalistic connections) thought about my Adam and Eve imagery within the context of this series. Until one day I walked into my ex’s house and found taped to the side of a shelf, a long drawing of a tree, done with several sheets of paper, by my daughter.

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My first excitement and amazement came at the recognition of my own tree, in connection with hers. But then as I examined the tree, I realized that unlike mine, it had several very chakra specific images. The dragons and skulls and death at the roots, the heart in the center, and the cornucopia of transformational imagery in the branches, including grapes to Dionysus, and the feminine princess imagery. Her drawing as it turns out, was an enhanced replica of an image that her brother had done for a class project. That she had created the image with so much meaning in it, was dear and precious to me. The associations I had and the unfolding that occurred as a result made it magic.

Looking at her tree, I was suddenly struck by the physicality of the tree of knowledge. That the transformation to consciousness was not, as I somehow always treated it, the transformation of the mind itself. It was the transformation of consciousness of the being, of the body. So in essence it was the beginning of embodiment. Because without knowledge that one is a body, the thought, “I am in my body.” Than we just simply ARE. It is with the bite of the apple that we find ourselves housed in the meat of our existence, and become aware of our mortal coil. The coil that is the kundalini. It is with this that I realized, the chakra experience, is the knowledge of good and evil. These are one in the same thing. The Kundalini coiled within the body is Eve’s tree.

And by contrast, the Kaballah, already states that the sefirot are the tree of life. But this may seem to facile. How can I just claim it as a different tree? Isn’t it defining the same meditation experience as the chakras, using different words? Are not the sefirot simply the Rabbis’ words and thoughts for the same phenomenon we find in the Hindu yogic tradition? Well, yes, and no. The energy description is the of the same nature, but it speaks a different cultural and symbolic language for a reason. The rabbis are describing a nested sphere of intellects, that make up the universal energy. These nested spheres, resonate with the energies described in the physical body in words like chakras, but they also are expanded into the ethereal plane. I suddenly saw the two trees as fractal energetic symbols of each other. Where the kabbalistic tree of life, depicts the pure concept of these energies, and the kundalini coil within the human body echoes that energy into consciousness — the knowledge of good and evil — the knowledge of the universal energy that exists simultaneously at all levels.

This started to fill my body with chills of excitement, as I put pieces into place, and felt into the structures I was playing with. It made the constant fusions of these images in the hands of various magicians and healers, start to make sense. The connection is as old as the alchemists who played with occult cycles of transformation. My goal became more clear. I was to wrestle these esoteric, transformative, concepts, into expressive pieces of art, to describe the feelings that each node induce. To re-embody the magic that Eve tasted.

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Fusion of the various occult symbols including sefirot and chakras. Artist Unknown.

 

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Painting Journal

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.”

Martha Graham
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