Lucifer: Dissention in Contemplation
Oil on canvas, 24” x 30”, 1995 $3000
This painting operates on many levels. It also evolved and took on more layers and details over time. It started off as more of a satire on the idea of Lucifer; I wanted to paint Satan as effeminate, purple and lavender, and holding a narcissus flower, alluding to his vanity, while he reclined on a cliff overlooking a grotto and contemplated dissenting from God. According to the legend, Lucifer was originally a beautiful angel, according to some, the most handsome, and in Greek myth was a bright star and guide. Lucifer means “the bright one”.
Over time though as I worked on it, the painting was less of a lark and became more serious, and more of a commentary on human action, folly, blame, and responsibility. The cherubs above represent forethought, and thought they play and frolic, they hold a garland of skulls, as warning to humans, to think ahead and of the results of their actions. They also try in vain to warn Lucifer, who is not even aware of their existence, who is not thinking ahead or of the consequences of his actions, but only of his fine self. The figures in the cliff rock represent people who are suffering and become entrenched in blame and do not take responsibility for their actions. They are caught up in their pain but push it down and say “the Devil made me do it” The rock represents how they are caught up in a cycle of blame and blame everything and everyone else, but in reality, did not “look before they leap” so to speak, and only when they let go of blame and despair will be able to truly embark on a healing process.
This painting, while itself evolved during the process, also is a comment on the changing nature of symbols. While Lucifer has his roots as a Greek god of light, he also originated from the Druid/Wiccan Green Man, a nature protector, and Greek and Mediterranean nature god Pan, who was a “satyr” – a goat from the waist down, had cloven feet, sported horns and a tail, and was sometimes, like Poseidon, depicted holding a trident, an ancient warrior’s weapon later misinterpreted as a pitchfork. Pan was a protector of nature, especially the forests, and should anyone disturb him or the forests while he rested, would let out an immense and powerful cry to send terror into their hearts and cause them to flee, and is also from where the word “panic” originates. The purple in the painting as I mentioned was in point of the ironically feminine nature of ‘the big bad’ but also holds a regal and mystical quality to it – all symbolic of feelings I wanted to swirl in this painting – power and loss of power, the unknown, the beyond. The top of the painting is more purple, but the color drains out to more of a greyish hue toward the bottom, as it reaches more despair and to more suffering depths, and the color is drained and flattened out of life.
I painted this while very in my “Michelangelo phase” and I still love painting images from the expressive face and the rigorous musculature of his figures. Some of the cherubs and beings in the rocks were after or inspired by other Renaissance artists’ paintings, including Botticelli and Raphael. Props go out to my cousin Jake Trammell, who posed as just a tot (well was a restless toddler can hold a pose), for the cherub to the far right of the painting – Jake is now in college and looking at this painting reminds me just how much time has passed!!! I can’t believe my little angel baby is all grown up.