Saturday, February 5, 2011

Image Analysis #2

Here's another image from the Dark Moon series. This series featured a lot of images of nude children. Let me just say, for all you hysterical, fascistic, self-appointed censors of the arts, that all the children in the series, both male and female, represent me as a child. It's SYMBOLIC--get it? A symbol. If you're not sure what that means, look up the word "symbol." The children are nude because nudity symbolically represents both innocence and vulnerability. The Dark Moon series, like much of my work, has to do with excavating traumatic memories and experiences from the unconscious--the shadow--and much of that material comes from childhood.

Moving right along, this image, "Stake," seems to be about how negative, destructive forces in a child's life can become internalized. The "voices" of angry, critical, disapproving adults and cruel, hateful children become one's own internal voices of self-hatred and condemnation. The animal-men emerging from the girl's body represent these voices and they are patterned mainly after dogs to represent the unthinking, primitive, knee-jerk manner in which people can be hurtful. The dog represents man's "lower nature"; his blind, pecking order, herd mentality. Also, in my childhood neighborhood there were a lot of dogs chained up in yards that always barked at me as I walked by, and in my mind this became associated with people being cruel to me for no reason other than that I was an easy target.

The dog-men are coming out of the girl's navel by something that could be an umbilical cord and this seems to represent how one gives birth to one's own low self-esteem by believing the critical, condemning statements of others. Also, the navel corresponds to the third chakra which has to do with issues of self-esteem, one's relationship with the self, and issues of personal power and mammalian politics. One's ability to assert one's will and individuality in the world and the tendency to dominate or be dominated are all third chakra concerns. The internalized voices of self-hatred are crippling to the will and to the ability to assert oneself within the social group.

The figure is female because it was the desire to connect and be in harmony with the people around me that was the most damaged, and these qualities are archetypically female. This desire for relationship is further hampered by the girl being tied to a stake, which also carries connotations of victimization and being scapegoated, which is certainly how I felt as a child.
The background in the image is a dirty, dingy, industrialized cityscape representing the bleak, unfeeling, dehumanized quality that my childhood environment took on.

Fun stuff I know, but it had to be expressed, and there's a raw power in allowing these nightmare images to have their day in the sun. It empowers me because it allows me to externalize these old thoughts and feelings and therefore no longer be controlled by them. I see them for the lies that they are and so become a more balanced and whole person.

Interesting footnote about this image: I used to contribute drawings to a tabloid called BIGnews Art and Literary Journal which was published in NYC and given to the homeless to sell and earn money with. Someone on the staff used this image as the basis for a fictional story about a psychologist's hypnotherapy sessions with a female patient. The story and accompanying picture was printed in the June 2003 issue.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Image Analysis #1

Hi. Welcome to my blog. I'm not sure what kinds of things I'll be posting here in the future. Hopefully you will find it all interesting and thought-provoking, perhaps even disturbing or controversial--who knows?

I'm going to begin the blog by analyzing some of my own pictures. For those who always ask "What does it mean?" this will provide some long-awaited answers. As I've stated elsewhere, I don't usually start the creation of an image with a concrete idea or concept in mind, but rather try to let images arise spontaneously from my subconscious. When the image is finished, I still don't delve too deeply into it's possible meanings. I have more fun letting other people tell me what they think it means. (When they have something more intelligent to say than "Dude--you must have done a lot of acid.")
I am now, however, going to attempt to "deconstruct" some of my own images for the first time. These observations and insights will be made on the fly as I write. Here we go...

This image is called "Parenting" and it's from my Dark Moon series--a series of cathartic images I did during my Pluto square around age 36-37. (This is an astrological term. I'm also an astrologer: The Pluto square is a time when repressed elements of the "shadow" (things we have hidden from ourselves) emerge into consciousness and one is forced to make a personal "underworld" journey to confront and hopefully accept and re-integrate the split-off shadow elements.

*extra credit: look up Carl Jung's concept of the Shadow and the mythology of Pluto, the planet and the god.*

This picture seems to be about my dysfunctional childhood. My parents had a horrible marriage and were constantly at each other's throats, so it's actually puzzling to me why I chose to draw the parental figures embracing, as this was a sight that was practically non-existent in my childhood home. More specifically, I think the theme of the picture is my sense of disconnection from my parents, which grew greater as my parents' marriage disintegrated and they both turned to me as a confidant and conspirator against the other. As you may or may not know, putting a child in a double-bind position like that where loving one parent means betraying the other can really screw a kid up. What resulted was a distancing and disconnecting on my part from both of them and a feeling that I couldn't really trust them. This seems to me to be why I am standing alone (the child represents me obviously) facing away from my parents and they are huddled in a unit which doesn't include me.

The parents' facelessness comes from a childhood dream which occurred shortly after I had moved to a new neighborhood and new school at age 7. In the dream, I'm exploring my old school with a friend as if it were a museum. We're part of a tour group which we get separated from. We climb a flight of stairs to find residential apartments. We enter one of the apartments and inside there are tropical plants and trees and a shallow wading pool. We're dazzled by the lushness of it and the wonder of an oasis inside an apartment. The owner of the apartment suddenly appears and is angry with us for intruding. He is wearing a smoking jacket a la Hugh Hefner and has no face. My friend and I are terrified and run out of the apartment, down the stairs and out of the building. My parents are waiting for me in a car. We drive back to my new house. We pull into the driveway and my parents turn to look at me in the back seat and they too have no faces! This was where I awoke. I believe the facelessness represents the emotional disconnection I felt from my parents. In the dream, there were no smiles or other facial cues that I could find comforting and I could not gage their mood or how they felt about me without a face. Looking back even further, the source of the dream image was an old Jimmy Olson (Superman's pal) comic book owned by one of my elementary school classmates where some super-villain erases Jimmy's face for some reason I can't remember.

*If anyone wants to analyze the rest of the dream feel free to write me.*

In the picture my eyes have been gouged out. This seems to represent the fact that I could not deal with my parents' constant negativity and so tried to hide from it by not "seeing" it. In so doing, I wounded myself by cutting myself off from other social realities involving friends, classmates, teachers, etc. I could no longer see things as they really were in a social context. Avoidance and expectation of painful interactions became my default behaviors, and so I was "blinded."

My nakedness in contrast to my parents' being clothed seems to represent my vulnerability. The empty dilapidated house we're in represents the state of depression and emotional bleakness that had become the family norm; the lack of love and warmth, the neglect. The boy seems to be screaming because he's in pain and my childhood was indeed painful in many ways. It also seems to be an attempt to be heard over the din of my parents' bickering.
The parent's seeming closeness could also represent the bright sunny facade they put on when there were guests or other people around, only to turn back into Mr. and Mrs. Hyde when they were once again alone with each other.

Strange footnote: Many years ago, someone I didn't know--a young man--called me while I was out. The message was that this person REALLY NEEDED to know what this picture meant. There was a kind of urgency and desperation to this query that really creeped me out, so, needless to say, I did not return the call.

David Aronson
January 16 2011