Sepulchre of the Sun

Elizabeth Luallen, Artist

Sepulchre of the Sun, Endless Summer Painting by Elizabeth Luallen, circa 1985. Click on the image to purchase or send a free email.

There is always something fascinating to discover in the art of Elizabeth Luallen. This is her self-portrait. In inimitable wit, she is, at the moment the work is taking place, painting the piece. You can see her, under the umbrella, her back turned, under the straw hat.

She includes herself in the moment of creation. She understands that an artist can never be separated from her work: that artist and art are forever one.  She is well aware that objectivity is a metaphysical ritual better practiced in darkness. The bathers have disrobed and emerge from the cramped obscurity of the changing shed, in contrast to the infinitude of the sunny beach. Their faces are only distinguishable enough to convey a mood – anything more distracts us from the feelings we are invited to share. How little of an image can you see and still understand that person’s attitude and feeling in this moment? Innocent, coquettish, happy-go-lucky, forthright. Could these figures be here more in spirit than in flesh? Have they ‘changed’ out of their garments of this world?

You can see that the figure I have named ‘the artist’ is imbued with all the colors of the painting. The painting is within her, she within the painting. The bathers pose for the picture, while she ignores the camera. What interest has she in being seen, as it is she who is observer? Even so, in all honesty she has to admit that she can never escape her own painting. So, there she sits, shaded from the unforgiving sun.

The shed stands dilapidated; burnt, sun-worn. In other words, it is old. We know that it’s made of wood, and yet the colors suggest stone.The little shade enjoyed is a rapturous lavender or glowing maroon. The black inner compartment of the shed is altogether a different portal from another world: an aerie void. The shingle hanging above the double doors is nameless. It is, like an ancient sepulchre of the sun itself; the apparent but ineffable, from which this moment of creation has emerged. You enter, fully attired. You leave, practically naked, to be bathed in unrelenting light. But you can sense something is still waiting in there – something too powerful and awe-full to be described through color. Strangely, the door on the left resembles the spirit of a man. You can just make out his shirt collar, pants – even his boot points out to his right. His face in profile, expresses loss and mourning as the young people emerge. What does he know that no one wants to learn?

We live within our own selves. We can never escape this fact. We must learn to trust in our own feelings and understanding. The time for relying on others to explain things to us is rapidly reaching its end.

A Blue Moon | red pill, or blue pill?

John Lane Images

“Moonrise” by photographer John Lane – these other images available for purchase at artavenue.folliohd.com

who knows if the moon’s
a balloon, coming out of a keen city
in the sky—…

e.e. cummings

When you look at the moon, there seems no way to discern it other than in a personal way. It seems to hang there, knowing that you are gazing up at it. It emanates “awareness.” Even for those who have the unhappy habit of denigrating their own imaginative impulses, inserting in their place a dry set of ‘objective’ facts from a trusted book or website, the moon summons awe.

Everyone remembers a story associated with the moon. And it is always a poignant and deep recollection that marks a turning point in one’s life. For me, it was knowing that, one evening, as I looked up at the moon, that my mother was also looking at it from a distant part of the world. To know that, together, we shared a vision of heavenly mystery, set that moment aside among my thoughts of her, in a grandeur gilded in affection and longing. Whenever I look up, I always remember her and feel that she also looks upon it now, although from a new vantage point that I hope someday to share.

Is this why the moon sports such a ‘crazy’ reputation? Our reason is no match for its splendor. Its magnificence defies cool, calm calculation – it watches you with the same treacherous romance as the glowing eyes of a wolf from  the darkness: waiting, still, patient, terrible, wonderful. If we think we understand the moon, we have imbibed the blue pill. And, unless you absolutely cannot resist the red, I would strongly recommend that you keep taking the blue, once in the morning and once before bedtime. You won’t regret it because you’ll never know what you missed.

The Half-Told Story

Never underestimate the power of art to influence and affect how we see our world. The better the art, the more powerful its impact, but the more subtle its effect.

In “Red Shoes, Yellow Hat,” one of several works that include red shoes, by American artist Elizabeth Luallen (1935-1995), a woman relaxes on the lawn in an adirondack chair, gazing away, we know not where, contemplating the afternoon amidst quiet reading. We ought to share in that relaxation, but somehow we cannot. The grass burns like fire. Her shoes appear more like embers giving off greenish white smoke. A yellow hat covers her face, her expression hidden. Not even her neck can escape that chiffon dress. Only her hand and chin are visible. Obviously, she is wearing a yellow, straw hat. Obviously? Look again. That hat, skewed and worn, hides something significant. It is a strange hat. Could there be the suggestion that it is like a nun’s yellow habit? Yellow carries contradictory values in its symbolism. On the one hand, yellow symbolizes remembrance, sunshine, happiness, loyalty, and joy. On the other hand, it symbolizes cowardice and deceit. We see “on the one hand” rivulets of yellow.

endless summer paintings of Elizabeth Luallen

Red Shoes, Yellow Hat, original masterwork by artist Elizabeth Luallen (private collection)

Can you see what lies embedded in the straw “habit”? Can you see them? Lovers in the straw? [click on the image to view more closely]

Recollection of love broken through infidelity leaves perhaps the deepest of scars: the eternal dance of love and betrayal, whose only lasting remedy is spiritual lightening of being. The old, disfigured straw hat of yesteryear turns, through graceful contemplation, into a corona of acceptance.

A book lies face down on the grass, its story only half-told. We are left to end the story. Is the ending of peace or pain?