Daily Archives: June 2, 2014

The Doppelgänger

The doppelgänger (German for “Double-Walker”) is a pervasive theme in my work, deeply rooted in early childhood associations, growing into a symbolic awareness with a strong sense of self-portraiture and autobiography. The sister, or twin figures, are early incarnations of the doppelgänger, the “other”, related, but separate.  This stage is a bridge between the early undifferentiated consciousness of childhood and the cognizance of other people as individuals, often unfathomable and obscure.
This twin often has a darker aspect, a trickster nature, and as the Jungian shadow she is at the same time a guide or teacher.  The works What Little Girls Are Made Of and Forest Sisters deal with this concept, as well as Dance of Salome.  The first painting of the series to show a true doppelgänger was Watching the Wake, in which a girl recognizes her sleeping double—is it a doppelgänger seeing the sleeping self or the self dreaming the doppelgänger?
After acknowledging the otherness of the double, the psyche, when ready for transformation, can internalize the qualities of the twin.   This is the mystical marriage, the merging of opposites initiated by erotic impulse, stirring the soul to absorb the qualities it lacked until then.  The painting Animosity is a double self-portrait, with myself in feminine form, leaning in longing towards the aloof animus figure, myself as a male.  Raising of the Female Waters, in the Mythos series, shows the connection between the male and female figures which elevate and merge in the waters above the female figure in the foreground

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This union of opposites is recognized through many myths and religious philosophies—Shekinah as the Shabbat bride, for example. A particularly potent instance is the Shakti force of Tantra, the feminine energy symbolized by a coiled snake at the base of the spine.   She rises through the energy centres to reach her consort, Shiva, at the crown, in a wedding of the male and female principles, in essence, jiva (the individual soul) to Brahman (the ultimate reality).  The symbol of the cross and the Star of David both are said to signify the marriage of above to below, or spirit to matter.   This is where Narcissus was bewitched to fall in love with his own reflection rather than discover the other as Self.   Raising of the Female Waters shows the importance of both the male and female principle, the standing male figure gesturing as if tuning an invisible instrument, which is affecting the underwater female figure, and their psychic counterparts which float together above her.
Out of every spiritual union comes a birth, a joyous creation, but also a separation.  A psychological siamese twin is formed, which grows and separates into another double, potentially stronger and more complete.  Works such as Seven Days Drowned and Torso with Seven Breasts in the Multiplicity series allude to the fecundity of nature, and the multiplicity of creation.  Three Graces shows the figure at the far right as a pregnant version, full, ripe, and serene. The birth which comes out of a psychological synthesis is the foundation for the images of multiplicity in my work.  Multiplicity to me stands for the fruitfulness of life, the creativity of the female principle and the union of opposites, and the fate of souls born to earth.  The self-portrait face in Cat’s Cradle is doubled in one head, siamese twin style.  The girls in the bathtub in Dreams of Deprivation are joined at the hip, busy at their own obsessive compulsive tasks in their dry, fully-clothed bath.  The echo of figures in Dance of Salome creates, in effect, more than one dancer.  The relevance of multiple limbs, multiple heads and breasts comes to me in part from the association to the Hindu gods and goddesses, their omniscience and omnipotence, their existence outside of time shown through the multiplicity embodied in their figuration.  Bringing such themes into the personal, in portraiture, pays homage to the idea of self-realization.  The self exists as many in the world of flesh, and in every separation there is pain, but also growth.
The myths of dismemberment and creation of life out of body parts fascinate me—Osiris’s scattering, his res-erection, Dionysius being torn limb from limb by his worshipers and Eve created from Adam’s rib.
The word schizophrenia means literally, “broken soul,” and if we are all descended from one source, spirit enclosed in a body, would we not feel the pain of such a breach?  Taking a look at the world around us, it would seem so.  Self-Portrait in a Yellow Shirt, and Queen of Hearts betray a mood of fragmentation and over-identification with the body and the suffering and anxiety resulting. The separation of the one into many and the return of the many into the one is a psychological epic adventure described in many great works of philosophy, literature and religious texts, such as the Bhagavad-Gita, the Zohar, Buddhist texts, D.H.Lawrence, Rumi, Book of Enoch and so on.
In this series I seek to make a small tribute to the various stages in the migration and transformations of consciousness. Symbols or themes which  convey this for me have been the mirror, water or the ocean, the serpent, sisters/twins and eroticism.
The serpent has represented a vast many things for most cultures throughout history, but at this stage in my work I am dealing with the serpent as the unconscious, as potential energy, powerful yet dangerous.  The serpent appears in Eve in the Garden wrapped around the ankle of a contemplative Eve who casually displays her nakedness while holding an apple.    In Kings in the Bible the priests break up the snakes that are in the temple, and then they are among the people, causing them harm and death.  God tells Moses to set up a fiery serpent on a staff and this will cure them.  How can the same serpents be worthy of being chopped up and destroyed, but later raised up on a staff for good?  The serpent is the Kundalini, the powerful energy which lays dormant awaiting awakening.
Water carries similar associations, the primordial sea from whence all things come, but also the collective unconscious, the source of all ideas, pf thoughts and life.  The snake and the ocean contain a paradoxical meaning because they also represent the whole, unity.   Waterbearer, Dreams of Deprivation, Mirror Jar, The Source, Seven Days Drowned and Raising of the Female Waters all explore themes of this life-giving and sustaining resource.
The mirror is similar to the doppelgänger in scope—in that we must recognize one’s Self outside of oneself in order to move forward.  To first “see” one must look.  The mirror in Narcissa and Her Echo among other works conveys this idea.
In my paintings the symbols of water, the serpent and the mirror are not potent only as mythological tales but also on the archetypal and psychological levels.  They are specific images which resonated with meaning during the intensely visual and profound experiences on LSD in my youth, images which stuck with me much later in my work.
Like Narcissus, we may see our own reflection in the water, the image of our ego, and, bewitched, fall in love, or we may find we are mired deep underwater, and must emerge into a diluvial landscape in order to evolve our reptile consciousness.
Through eroticism and love, we learn to identify with the Other, and to yearn to experience the bliss of union.  Eroticism speaks through the language of desire, connection, creativity and sensation about the meaning of life.    I use eroticism to express the doppelgänger theme in works such as Women in a Brothel, Mirror Jar, Narcissa and Her Echo, Dream of the Beast, and What Little Girls are Made of.   Often touched by darkness, like life, never unshadowed by pain. Art lovers know that looking at a painting can be a sensual experience.   I seek to create a sense of heightened awareness and intensified attention, similar to the kind which is initiated with the arousal of desire or realizing in a dream that you are dreaming.  In this way I invite you in.