In this painting a revelation is included. I worked out some grand themes: the relation between sex and religion and its inner contradiction. As to this sex is symbolized by Bettie Page, pin-up from the first hour and advocate, in spite of her self, of a sexual revolution avant la lettre. In the 1950s many had her pictures hidden under the bed but nobody wanted to admit to it. The tournedos on her leg says: Everyone wants a piece of Bettie. I once read that many of her softcore SM flirtations were staged in ordinary and boring living rooms. Thus neat and bourgeouis people could relate to them very easily but secretly behind closed doors.
The way anglo-sakson culture obviously works is that in the long run sexual freedom gets bogged down in extremism like porn, symbolized by the vibrator, HP sauce (libertatem Industria) and the fleshy quality of the tournedos, bacon and baked egg. The latter is a symbol for the soul in many cultures. Who discovered the ‘blasted tower’ and my self portrait in the painting yet?
What I find very peculiar is that the United States of America is the inventor of modern porn and at the same time holds so many religious zealots. The question is: do these zealots consume porn as well or perhaps in abudance? In this respect, does this constitute a contradiction or are these extremes just two sides of one coin?
Alice in Wonderland crawded out of the rabbit hole and with her childlike innocence is about to discover all those delicacies. She is the only one laughing in the painting, still being cheerful and in the beginning of her life to unfold. The abstract cartoon-style I derived from Walt Disney’s movie adds to the alineation the painting should induce.
Eventually we all are nothing but mating rabbits (to the left behind her). Grant Wood’s couple from American Gothic seems to confirm this. The man points his accusing finger to the spectator: Where do you stand? He holds a pool cue (la queue: the penis ‘en français’) and the woman cups her hands in a vaginal symbol. In the man’s overall trousers there is a depiction of Jesus at the cross and the two Marias. One Maria is pregnant.
To the left under Bettie’s leg you can see the Yellow Brick Road from the Wizard of Oz. I was stuck to the color yellow already present in the painting, like in the copper plate, Alice’s hair and the rocket blast. It was an addition to the fairytalelike and absurd expression I needed for the overall theme. It also creates a kind of embarkment to discover all subthemes in the art work, just as Dorothy would have felt it.
The Dom of Utrecht takes off like a Saturn rocket: God is Loose! I once was in Utrecht and all of a sudden a fantasy struck my mind: what if all church towers would take off like rockets. Perhaps my love for Jon Anderson’s song ‘Surrender’ is the inspirational source for that.
The crusaders in the background symbolize a spiritual operation set up on a large scale but in the end led to nothing but bloodshed and polarisation. The blast could also represents the scorched earth the knights left behind. The Châttilon coat is to commemorate my distant ancestors. Many of them were crusaders as well.
When we talk about sex and religion, Jimmy Swaggart swiftly comes to mind. “I have sinned” he stated and the image of his crocodile tears are burnt into my retinae in the 1980s. He is the archetype t.v. preacher criticized by Genesis (Jesus He Knows Me) and Hooters (Sattelite). Of course he meets his doom as you can see (behind his back).
The apple on the tree symbolizes the fall but where is the snake? The branch is withered and holds no leafs anymore. The eve of destruction?
I am fond of ambiguous images. You can go to my post ‘Gaia 16-03-16’ to find out more about them. The rabbits and basset in Bettie’s breasts symbolize the statement that counts for everyone: nothing is what it seems to be.
About the ‘how’ I would like to mention Johannes Itten who spoke on balance in all sorts of contrasts so eloquently. I tried to balance the big themes and the details just like Jan van Eyck did in his famous painting ‘Madonna of Chancellor Rolin’. I always was fascinated by its mechanisms: the main theme of the Madonna worshipped by Rolin is the painting 1.0. For spectators who want to see more there is the painting 2.0: a landscape and a city full of activity but it does not interfere with the 1.0. This is what I wanted for my painting as well and I hope it it will serve as an hommage to the arts and crafts of the old masters in these days of artistic confusion all around us.
Click here to see the build-up of the art work.
Click here to read about the exhibition of this art work by Art Society Vlietstreek in Museum Voorschoten in May 2023.
Oil on wood panel (85 x 120 x 0.9 cm)
Artist: Corné Akkers
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