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Telling Stories

Last time I wrote about how I know when a piece is done, probably not really giving an adequate answer for many people, but basically, I just know when I know. Which brings me to the piece I think I just finished. Mostly. I’m pretty sure, but maybe it will get a little more. I’ve actually got a couple brand new pieces on the tables right now, getting ready for painting live at church this next weekend, but I digress…

So now that the piece is mostly done, the next question is, “What does it mean?” Now this is not often a question I get when I have created a lovely landscape or a beautiful butterfly, but when I create more unusual imagery like dead things and nests with roots and snails with wings, people want to know what in the world is going on in my brain. Fair enough.

Most of the time I can give them an answer, too. But every once in a while I am also wondering what in the world just came out of my brain and why. You see, I have learned to create artwork in a sort of semi-conscious state, just sort of letting things flow and come together as opposed to planning and figuring everything out beforehand. Anyone who has spent much time with me can tell you that I often do not plan a lot of things. I like being spontaneous and really only make reservations for things like motel stays because I learned a long time ago that if you don’t, especially traveling on the Fourth of July holiday weekend with a dog, that you can drive really a long way before you find a place to stay, and then it may not be a place you ever want to stay in again. But again, I digress.

Revelation - mixed media artwork by Judith Monroe
“Revelation” by Judith Monroe, photo transfers, ephemera, acrylic, wax pastel and dried pressed pine needles on cradled wood panel (42×42″) $2700

My artwork has a tendency to come together without too much conscious thought and then afterwards I have to ask myself what I was expressing out of the recesses of my brain, or what came flowing from the Spirit. And so it happened with this piece I have pretty much just finished. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on it this time, and I started asking other people what they thought it meant, because it obviously means something. I started with the people I live with, and the best I got was from my daughter who said it made her feel safe. That was pretty cool, partly because my daughter doesn’t think I’m insane, but because safety is a big deal for her.

So I decided to do what anyone in our digitally connected world would do and I went online to see what people would say. I posted the image and basic question on Facebook and Instagram and I got a lot of great feedback. The main topic of conversation was what the antlers on the house meant, and several people felt that the antlers were protection and some expressed a sense of comfort from that. One person pointed out that antlers often symbolize spiritual authority and regeneration and can be a reference to God. I dug around some more and sure enough, in traditional Christian symbology, a stag is a symbol of Christ.

When I first created the image and it had just the antlers on it, I had felt the antlers were like a crown and I had connected it in that way to God and Christ. This is the kind of thing that can happen, I find myself using an old symbol in a new but congruous way, which is why I trust in my subconscious method of art creation. I guess you could say that this is a picture of my house, since our Christian faith is an important part of our lives. Or you can make up your own story for it, I’m fine with that, too.

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