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.

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