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“Awakening” is the third painting in the “Apes” series. It is a re-visiting of the myth of Adam and Eve and the Fall; as the title implies, it assigns a radically different perspective to the story. Even as a child, deeply immersed in religious teachings, I was perplexed by the thought that the desire for “knowledge of good and evil” should be stigmatized as sinful. Were we not born with both the desire and the capacity to wonder? I have herein represented the encounter with knowledge as an awakening to possibility, rather than a fall from grace. I intended to declare by this painting that the pursuit of knowledge, or more precisely of understanding, is the noblest feature of humanity. The ability to wonder about and to attempt to understand who we are and where we come from is, in large measure, what makes us human, but it also is what allows us the awareness that, rather than separate from nature, we are an integral part of all that is.
I began with Adam, the mythical patriarch. In my fanciful imagining, his head is still imbedded in his evolutionary past. He remains suspicious of knowledge, as his gaze attests, although the rolled-up New Yorker magazine in his hand suggests that he aspires toward greater sophistication.
Eve, his companion, is more knowing, both of her own seductive power, and of the responsibility of choice. She holds in one hand the fruit that suggests sexual awareness, but she reclines away from Adam, offering instead an orb, which suggests a purer and more integrated understanding. Her gaze acknowledges the allure of both.
The agent of this process is represented here as Herr Einstein, who gestures toward an image of the sun distorting the fabric of space by its gravitational field. His benign gesture suggests that knowledge itself is neither good nor evil. His serpentine scales offer a riot of color and pattern, as a celebration of infinite possibility.
Directly behind Eve is the mythical womb of creation, and surrounding all is a depiction of the fabric of space and time as a web of tessellated triangles. We are from stardust made; our substance is the very stuff of the universe. We find ourselves, as a species, uniquely equipped to contemplate, perhaps even to comprehend, our place in the totality of Creation. Ultimately our only obstacle to continuing discovery is the belief that we already know.