Oil on canvas triptych
Karen Parker Moeller 2014
The idea of man[kind] studying himself as a science fascinates me in the same way an infinity box reflects reflections. On a more personal level, the opening of the drawer represents a moment of self-awareness through introspection. The setting is an attic where things are stored and forgotten. Memories, like vintage toys—patinaed and aged—lay strewn about the attic floor. Revisiting them can be painful work, but well worth the effort when understanding and illumination lead to new freedom. The ornate pattern borders reference Flemish illuminated manuscripts—a precursor to my design and illustration profession. The mix of flat pattern (2-D) and illusional 3-D represents the tension between eternal and temporal “space” where truth may be revealed.
The floral border around the figure is both decorative and meaningful. Like a surrounding fortress, the presence of God (symbolized in each flower) provides protection and safety for the delicate work of facing what’s inside the soul. In the tradition of early Christian art, each flower has a specific meaning:
Anemone: The Holy Trinity
Poppy: Christ and the crucifixion (because of its blood-red color)
Columbine: The Holy Spirit
Ivy: Dependable, endurance and faithfulness
Pansy: Remembrance and meditation (the pansy pattern continues into the dress, too)
God’s presence is also symbolized by the light emanating from the drawer and bathing the attic in warmth. His light gives illumination and understanding, grace and forgiveness, the courage to be honest about failures and to face wounds from the past. The serenity in the figure’s face reflects the peace and comfort provided after a long-fought, but ultimately victorious battle. Old wounds are cleansed and healed, sins are confessed and forgiven, understanding and forgiveness is offered to others.
Past, Present and Future
The attic and toys represent the past. The center panel shows the point of view of an adult. The altered perspective in the two side panels represents the view point of a child.
The figure—whose hand breaks through the painting into our space—represents the present.
The window in the attic behind her is the future, brushy and indistinct, because we cannot see the future in definitive terms. Within the window is a choice. The left pane shows a river where one may be carried along on the current of the status quo. On the right, one is required to exert the effort to climb—to make changes. The clockwork is a metaphor for the intricacy in which we are fashioned—the Psalmist says “fearfully and wonderfully made”— and we are each given a finite number of heartbeats, like the ticking of a clock, and then we’re done. The specific time represents transition—as day moves in to evening.
Broken Mirror and Empty Liquor Bottles
The broken mirror symbolizes the self-absorption so prevalent in modern culture. Self-absorption is about elevating and glorifying the self—to become a pseudo god and thereby create a false reality. The self referencing the self for context and meaning becomes a vortex of darkness and the self becomes imprisoned by its craving for more. More stuff. More praise. More glory. In contrast, self-awareness is about facing the truth about our weaknesses and failures and seeks to correct bad behavior. With God’s help, the self is free to love God and others.
The empty liquor bottles represent another means of coping with the impoverished self, through escape into addictions and/or distractions.
The allure of both self-absorption and escape tempts continually. The soul falters and fails, but God is ever-present and merciful, providing a true path to freedom.
Family of Origin
The antique toys in the left panel refer to ancestry. Our today is directly influenced by the way we were parented, for good or for bad. Blessings and curses flow down the family tree, effecting generations as parenting styles and dysfunction are passed along.
Everything is possible with God. Heart work is hard work, but worth the effort.
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
To my LORD and Savior Jesus Christ! To Him alone be the glory. This painting is a tribute to His healing love.
To my wonderful husband, Chas, for taking on extra responsibilities so that I could paint and for being an ongoing supporter and best friend.
To Katie for spending endless hours talking about art and painting, and for offering good advice and encouragement.
To Greg for walking through a dark time with me, providing wise counsel and context.