The stories I write after a painting are the culmination of transcribing explanations of the iconography as they are told to me during my painting process. I'm guessing there's some art spirit/muse ethereal being that goes around the world whispering stuff in artist's ears and, since it's a pain in the ass to transcribe it, many artists just paint the picture and leave it at that. I wish I could. It's pretty exhausting to write about it after incubating a piece for months, or as in this case, a bit over a year.
This particular piece, Epiphany, is chock-full of what the collector calls "easter eggs"; little seemingly unimportant decorative bits which add to understanding the narrative of the piece. Followers of my work have become adept at interpreting the iconography and, what once alienated viewers, now draws them into conversation. I believe that's what that art spirit muse thingy intended.
So here's a not-so-secret decoder ring to this painting that may give you insight into past and future works. Check it. You might learn something about the painting, the universe, or yourself.
The Iconography of Epiphany
Albatross: mariners believed that an albatross flying alongside their ship was an indication of good fortune on their journey. If anything happened to the bird, they believed it foretold misfortune. In the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a sailor shoots an albatross and the ship's crew punishes him by tying him to a mast with the bird around his neck. Because of that poem, the albatross has come to represent a burden brought about by fate. Yet in actuality it is not fate, but our perception of our circumstances that creates a burden.
Baobab on the rocky hilltop: In Cameroon, baobab is a symbol of strength, power, grace, and presence. Strength and power come from the transcendence of difficult journeys.
Calendula: to bring comfort to those who are nervous and prone to fear, as well as those who have gone through a profound shock or trauma to the system. It is used to temper anger and rash behavior. Calendula can also be used to encourage emotional warmth and tolerance, compassion and the ability to truly listen to what others are saying. It is used in rituals to remove negative energy, and for divination.
Crab: representing the emotional armor of this character. The hope that is buried inside him is visible as a glimmer in his expressionless eyes.
Echinacea: to provide inner strength during trying times. It can also be grown around the house or brought into a house and placed in a vase to draw prosperity into the home and protect the family from suffering from poverty.
Moon shaped necklace: indicating the intuitive aspects of this character. It is golden and worn between the heart and throat chakras indicating the best of intentions in the Messenger's words.
Nasturtium: for banishing prejudice and supporting tolerance, and to support creativity, freedom, and independence. It is an herb of protection and can help a person release fear of new situations.
Spilanthes aka Jambu: to cure the body of infestation of spirits of the air and/or forest.
Stars: (in this painting) children.
Trunks and suitcases in the cave: harbored grievances, (baggage) locked in the dark recesses of the mind.
Water in the inlet: Just as we need water for our body to survive, we need hope for our mind to withstand periods of emotional strife.
Zia: symbolizes the four stages of life childhood, youth, adulthood, and old age. Shown here, emanating from a haloed heart, it is a reminder to keep an open and loving heart through the circumstances and stages of life.