Friday, November 22, 2013

The Jewel - Image and Premonition

The Jewel - Digital - 2006, Dia Sobin

She looks like some exotic, tattooed, Middle-Eastern cat-woman - possibly a court card from the Tarot of the Cat People - and was the first of my enigmatic hybrid creatures; but, I have a strange amnesia about this image, and how it emerged. And, it's difficult to talk about, because it's emergence coincided with the death of my mother in 2006; a harrowing, catastrophic period in my life (and hers), which I'd give anything to forget.

But, the point of this post - and the one which will follow it - is an attempt to discuss the paranormal aspects of art, specifically, art as imagery. Which is not to say the word "paranormal" appeals to me, because it doesn't. I prefer to refer to all of the weirder, inexplicable, and/or misunderstood varieties of human experience as transdimensional* - precognition, telepathy, ghosts, aliens, UFOs, faeries, the whole lot. In other words, I feel that all these human experiences are very real, and valid. Why we fail to understand them is because, in spite of all we think we "know", we don't "know" enough. We may never know enough.

What  I do know - and/or remember - is that, upon finishing this image, the weird intensity in the creature's eyes seemed to hold a message for me. And the message was one I didn't care to accept: my mother's imminent death.

While it's true that she had been ill and disabled for many years - following a massive brain-stem stroke at the age of 69 - I had no reason to think her time on this planet was up. She was a survivor - the toughest person I had ever known - and wholly determined to stay alive against all odds. She had been in and out of hospitals for ten years... and each time she went in, her doctors claimed the odds were wholly against her; she'd not make it out alive. But, she did. And I, in some sense, was her champion... a companion spirit - or vicious dog - attacking the first medical person who slipped up regarding her care. Nurses hated me. Doctors hated me. I was a bitch with fangs. Worse still, I asked intelligent questions. Happily, in spite of every diagnosis to the contrary, my mother thrived.

Shortly after I completed The Jewel, however, my mother entered the hospital for the last time. Oddly enough, one night she had a nurse; a Middle-Eastern woman, who glared at me at one point, in an effort to relay to me the seriousness of my mother's condition. I was immediately alarmed; the nurse, in my perception, had the same intense stare of my cat-like creature. And, I knew then, in the inexplicable way one knows things, that, tragically, the battle was lost.

And, it was.

But, what was it about this image that "spoke" to me... and why is it that I don't hate it now?

Because, It's a true image. In other words, however weird it seems - and, as in the case of Thoth, I do not claim it is a work of "high art" - I dug deep for this image, and pulled it from the cusp of that personal/transpersonal place from which, in my opinion, the best art can be found. And, yet, it is not an honest portrayal of my mother's plight. After all, I could've, perhaps should've, followed Frida Kahlo (as yet, an undocumented Patron Saint ), and portrayed my mother with a hundred plastic tubes snaking out of her tortured body. But, as much as I respect the art of Frida Kahlo, my muse sings a different tune, and, for the most part The Jewel was not a portrayal of my mother's plight. It may have been, instead, an indication of her deliverance, and, perhaps, her triumph.

For, there's another important clue to the creature's significance: the scarab-like "jewel" itself. It was created from systematically morphing a cicada (for a past post regarding the cicada, click here). The interesting thing about cicadas, and I only learned this recently, lies in their mythology, which often duplicates that of the ancient Egyptian scarab beetle, in that, it represents both death and rebirth.

So, once again, the idea of death looms on the horizon. But, not the death represented by skulls and corpses - that bogeyman we both fear and regret - but, the death which might be the fulcrum from which all creativity stems.  Perhaps, death and the ability to die is, ultimately, a secret treasure we all possess. Perhaps, it is one of our misunderstood strengths: our  proverbial "ace-in-a-hole" (and, most likely the Ace of Spades); or, a loophole, a portal from which we eventually escape and transform. In this way, the jewel in the image - like the Egyptian scarab - unifies our past, present and future. We wear it on our foreheads. It marks us for death... or, depending upon who you ask, eternal life.

Then again, maybe I was just channelling an Egyptian.

* Transdimensional, used here in regards to information and/or phenomena which, effectively, crosses dimensions. "Dimension", in this case, is not merely a spacial construct, nor necessarily aligned with any known application of time; it's measurement is relative and experiential. An occurrence of a "crossover" might be random - possibly even accidental - and wholly dependent on the faculties and/or location of the observer.

(Added note: Of course, in the case of the premonition of my mother's death, the information "crossover" was neither random nor accidental. It was specific and dependent on the strong relationship (or, if you will, the vital entanglement) that existed - and continues to exist - between my mother and myself. And, therefore, it follows, that the force of human emotions and, even biological make-up - and/or markers - might be significant factors in certain transdimensional experiences.)

For further exploration of cicada symbolism, try here, and here.
Likewise, for the scarab, try here.


  1. This image is yet again one that intrigues me greatly -- and it is indeed the eyes that speak so loudly.

    Symbolism always fascinating and to see what others find in their work is exceptionally so. Visual interpretation of emotions, desires and fears set out to see it kindles a like reception among the viewers.

    Superb post..and very insightful.

    1. Thanks, Bob!
      Actually, I'm not particularly fond of the image or the post, but, what's interesting to me is that I've always found the Middle-Eastern tradition of head-coverings on women oppressive. But, in reality, having only the eyes exposed exudes a kind of power. I think had I revealed her mouth, her expression would've been more vulnerable.