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We all have been influenced or impressed in some shape or form by our world that surrounds us. To say otherwise would be saying that we live in a vacuum, and since none of us do, whatever is popular in the culture is well-known by us. If the culture says it's relevant, we say it's relevant; if the culture says it's in, we buy in; if the culture says it's out, we discard it like yesterday's newspaper, so the question is not whether we are influenced by the culture, but to what extent are we influenced by that culture? This struggle or imbalance is what I depict in The Tree of Good and Evil.
If you've seen an Adam and Eve painting before, then there are some familiar elements that you immediately recognize in this piece: like the large fruit tree, a partially exposed Eve, and the serpent wrapped around the tree; but if you look closely there are a couple of things in this particular painting that stand out, like the mirror in her right hand and the bitten apple in her left hand.
The tree is neutral and bares the potential for so much good; it and its fruit are the culture.The tree is not inherently bad, but gross consumption of its fruit can lead to a serious distortion of our self-image. It's ok to glean from the tree, but to gorge on the tree can be detrimental. To have wants and desires is fine but when you cross the line into lust, you go from having desires to desires having you.
The snake here represents evil and excess in the culture. The problem is that the snakes of our culture aren't always obvious, they are sly and cunning and their venom poisons the identities of those who look to the surrounding culture to determine their self-worth. The snake uses subtlety and suggestion, and its one thing to reflect the positive aspects of our society, but it's another to become a total clone of the culture, a snake-bitten victim of utter identity theft.
This finally leads us to the woman with the mirror and the bitten apple. The mirror in her right hand represents her reflection or how she sees herself and the bitten apple in her left hand represents her consumption of the culture, which shapes how she sees herself. The mirror can represent many things, like vanity and extreme self-absorption or insecurity and total lack of self-worth. These two appear to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, but they are actually both very related since most people who are very vain and arrogant tend to be some of the most insecure people you could ever meet. The outward display is nothing more than a mask covering a much deeper, inward reality. In an effort to cover their most private areas, they leave the rest of themselves naked and exposed, which hints at the fig leaf.
There are other areas of this painting, like the fog, that also hint at aspects of self-identity, but I will leave them to you, the viewer, to interpret them how you see them. As always I look forward to the response the painting fostered within you; what do you think about the elements that I've highlighted in this painting? Do you have a different interpretation of this painting in general and the very real aspects of our modern culture that it speaks to? Please leave your comments and I thank you for visiting the site.