From the Faraway, Nearby, 1938
Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887–1986)
Oil on canvas
36 x 40 1/8 in. (91.2 x 102 cm)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1959 (59.204.2)
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
“I have things in my head that are not like what anyone taught me—shapes and ideas so near to me, so natural to my way of being and thinking.”
“What you remember saves you.”
― W. S. Merwin
What you able to forget helps too.
Everyone’s creative acts, whatever they may be, make constructive form out of the apparent formlessness of our lives. -Rollo May
Virginia Woolf , 1911 - 1912. Oil on board, by Vanessa Bell.
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PERHAPS NO OTHER single piece of artwork in the entire Western world so deftly summarizes the intersecting forces of Heaven and Hell as Hieronymus Bosch’s THE GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS. Painted between 1490 and 1510, and now in the collection of the Prado Museum in Madrid, the famous triptych is one of the world’s most astonishing accomplishments in cosmological iconography.
History has produced a meager share of works by authors willing to tackle questions of cosmology, from Dante’s DIVINE COMEDY through Swedenborg’s HEAVEN AND HELL, Gurdjieff’s BEELZEBUB’S TALES, and Carlos Castaneda’s A SEPARATE REALITY. Because works like these are relatively rare, each achieves its own pinnacle; the task of creating and describing the entire moral and physical universe is not for the faint of heart. The obstacles to achieving an equal level of discourse in a visual medium—let alone one small in scale—are daunting. Short of obvious literalizations spawned by classic Christian theology, there seem to be few ready answers to such a problem. The question is divine; the response can only be human, calling for an unparalleled mastery of metaphor and symbolism.
Uniquely, not only among all his peers but throughout almost all of art history, Bosch (1450–1516) managed to confront and surmount these problems and leave us with an esoteric masterpiece that describes the interaction of Heaven and Hell as transmitted through the most tactile and familiar agency possible—mankind
―excerpt from Lee van Laer’s: EMANATIONS OF DIVINITY: THE COSMOLOGY OF HIERONYMUS BOSCH: the wonders of Hieronymous Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, from the new summer issue of Parabola: “Heaven and Hell.”
Image: Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights (Ecclesia’s paradise). Central panel.