I’ve often been fascinated by the motif of “The Annunciation” in Christian Art, and wanted to explore the potential of still-life to express similar concepts. So I framed this project around the elusive task of “painting an angel.” I wanted to create an image that was somewhat mysterious, dark, and with more “non-objects” than objects. This recalling the foundational tenant of both Religious Mysticism and Nuclear Physics that there is more emptiness in the universe than there is matter. I wanted the space around the objects to breathe and shimmer with a dark luminous glow. I knew that I didn’t want to personify an angelic being by including a human figure, but I did keep coming back to wings.
Exploring the esoteric concepts of Kabbalah, I happened upon the compelling diagram called the Sephirot, otherwise known as the Tree of Life. This mystical image maps out the “emanations” or descending states of being from divine oneness. The diagram features a central axis, which unites the realm of divine thought at the topmost with material manifestation at the bottom. This recalled to me the spinal cord, as well as numerous other structures in the body.
I drew the Tree of Life on the ground plane, using an angled pane of glass to reflect it in a more canonical aspect. Behind the glass I placed the wings, positioned so as to correspond with the seventh and eighth emanations. These points of the Sephirot are frequently referred to as “Victory” and “Splendor”, and are thought to represent animal emotion and animal reason. One could certainly contemplate these emanations in the context of evolutionary biology, as the motivating force behind the development of wings, legs and other forms of locomotion. Exploring the structure of the skull of a chicken that I had in my studio, I realized that the different elements of the skull fit neatly over the tree of life. I placed them along the central axis to emphasize the spinal column metaphor.
Oil on panel, 18 x 24″