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Oil on Braced Baltic Birch 31” x 47” x 2”
I first sketched the concept for Alpha and Omega back in 2015, seven years before I began the painting. Eventually, I envisioned this scene to be the culmination of my series Vanitas and Viriditas, where Qohelet and Sophia finally meet. Qohelet comes from nobility, which afforded him the opportunity to pursue ‘everything under the sun’, including wealth, sensual pleasures, entertainment, knowledge, religion, philosophy, and science––seeking to find meaning in a modern age. As a lone wanderer fighting his own demons of nihilist despair he meets Sophia––Lady Wisdom––beckoning him from within the portal to a new creation.
Throughout this painting series the Zen rock garden has been a recurring motif. A prominent idea in Zen Buddhism is kire, which refers to the practice of “cutting” and letting go the root of life to recognize the radical impermanence of reality. Zen gardens, which are created to be dry landscapes absent of organic life “exemplify the nothingness that Buddhists claim to be intrinsic to all living things.” [i] This Zen art form is an aid to attaining satori (enlightenment). While Qohelet is attracted to this non-dualist approach to life, causing him to let go of all of his worldly attachments, Sophia beckons him back to all that is true, good, and beautiful. The barren black sand landscape is a picture of Qohelet’s soul, and the gushing waves spilling out from the portal are the Living Waters. Sophia carries a sapling, symbolic for the tree of life representing the wisdom that may also grow in Qohelet.
The twelve stones in the arch bear monograms for the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The Chi-Rho stone descending from above fits into the circular portal gate, as “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.” [ii] Sophia is a sign-post to Christ, whom Qohelet comes to understand as the “wisdom of God.” [iii]
The concept for this portal came from what the Celtic mystics called “thin places,” where the veil between heaven and earth becomes thin. Qohelet’s quest may finally be coming to an end, arriving at a newfound re-enchantment with the world. Yet, despite Sophia’s call to embrace the magic that is all around, the world is still filled with enigma, where human and environmental injustices abound. Qohelet and Sophia understand that it is only the Creator of the cosmos, referred to as The Alpha and Omega (the beginning and the end) who can ultimately restore what is broken, which no amount of human wisdom can fix.
[i] Abigail Leali, “Chasing Paradise: Japanese Aesthetics Part 2,” MutualArt.
[ii] Psalm 118:22
[iii] 1 Corinthians 1:30
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