This is the first installment of the Over Underworld art exhibit, a virtual release of paintings in March-April 2020.
I’m an artist, not a mystic, but I love to reflect on symbols. An abstraction has kidnapped our world, the coronavirus, so it now exists as our shared global symbol. Examining the metaphorical side of the coronavirus doesn’t mean we are escaping or ignoring the scientific; it means that we can be human and turn it around like an orb in our hands, exploring shades of meaning, comfort, fear and awe in it. If we seek myth and meaning, we don’t have to scrub terror away from our minds.
The virus is the corona, the crown, related to the sun, to kings, the orb that unites all of humanity and gives life. The sun is the heart, is play and fun, is wild nature in full summer bloom, the petals around the sunflower. In the Tarot deck, the Sun card shows a walled garden in which children and animals play– the original divine and protected innocence, Paradise.
But the corona is what shows when there is a total eclipse of the sun, and we are experiencing this darker sun symbol. An eclipse was terrifying in ancient times. Many images from past cultures are very consonant with our experience of the coronavirus.The images are of monsters– wolves, dragons, heavenly dogs, pumas, frogs, giant snakes, insects– eating the sun, the source of life, like the spread of the virus. I saw the total eclipse of the sun in 2017, and the sky chill that descended came from a deep, instinctive place.
I am doing a ten-painting series on the Tree of LIfe, a mystical Jewish metaphor that spread throughout European culture. It is a series of orbs connected by pathways, and is a positive metaphor for continuous creation, types of ethical experience, and joyful participation in the whole. But there is also a tradition of the darker sun, a sort of shadow side to each of the ten positions. The dark sun, as a polar opposite to the vital sun/heart, prevents us from experiencing The Sun realm. Light, beauty, joy, play, trust, and a connection to the heart is replaced by consuming fear and suspicion and survival angst– the dark corona.
To reconnect to our selves, our bright Sun, we need to consciously focus on those things which are obscured: safe community, art, aesthetics, enterainment, kids, pleasure, nature, beauty, and the bright and protective sides of our chosen religions and deities. It is our riddle how we will do this, but the Italians singing from their balconies have the right idea! I suggest making a lot of noise to drive away the demons, preferably with our own instruments, pots, pans and voices. Even to the present day, after a total solar eclipse, astronomers at the Griffith Observatory dance, yell, and beat pots and pans.
The sky is falling, as it always has. Don’t get eaten by any giant frogs. Stay loving, dance with life, pet your animals, walk in nature, and use those pots and pans. Suzanne
You may share this freely. Link: https://saltworkstudio.com/2020/03/17/over-underworld-1-coronavirus-as-visual-metaphor/
March-April 2020: Over Underworld: New Work
Virtual Exhibit released in the Saltworkstudio Blog, Facebook, and Instagram. Backstreet Gallery, where the exhibit is installed, is available for visit by appointment. Email Saltworkstudio@gmail.com
4 thoughts on “Over Underworld 1: Coronavirus as Visual Metaphor”
Thank you, Suzanne, for finding such a powerful way to help us cope with and learn from the nightmare we are all now forced to live. You are and always have been such an inspiration to me. Like you, I plan to spend lots of time in my studio creating during the weeks/months ahead. Stay well and be safe!
Love from Sandra and Jim in Guerneville
Artists will triumph in this time. I know the power of your creations. Love from Scott and me
Suzanne! This lovely post could not have come at a better time! I always resonate with your work and the words you use to describe it, and this time is no exception. As a Jew/witch, if I may coin a term, I feel a special connection to the etz chaim imagery you’ve so beautifully expanded on here. Your work is a light in a time of dark uncertainty and fear. Thank you thank you!
So lovely to hear from you. And I am glad you approve of my modest interpretation of this ancient tradition. It has so much to offer us! And I love Jew/witch!