The Yin and the Yang of Art…and Life.

There is in each of us an ancient force that takes and an ancient force that gives…The greatest peril to the Giver is the force that takes. The greatest peril  to the Taker is the force that gives…I’m at the Fulcrum; I cannot give without taking and I cannot take without (giving)..

The above is my favorite quote from my favorite sci-fi book, Dune, by my favorite character Paul Atreides. The book was written by one of my favorite sci-fi authors, the late great Frank Herbert. When I first read the quote, it immediately struck me as profound. I felt that I could grasp its meaning right away. Now several years since the first and after many subsequent readings, I’m more convinced now than ever that Herbert’s words ring more true today than ever before.

Just as Herbert often included much of his personal philosophy in his books, so have I often incorporated my own worldview into my art. My current pieces, a diptych which I call “Thought and Memory”, pretty much represents the totality of my personal viewpoint.

Thought and Memory...beginning stages.
Thought and Memory…beginning stages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I call this work Thought and Memory after Odin’s ravens in Norse mythology Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory, or mind). These ravens, as legend has it, exist in an almost symbiotic relationship with the father of the Aesir. They fly throughout the Nine Worlds of Norse cosmology and bring back to Odin all the knowledge and information they obtain along the way, making him essentially all-knowing.

 

An 18th Century Icelandic manuscript
A 18th Century Icelandic manuscript

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvel comics Odin by Tom Raney
Marvel Comics Odin,drawn by Tom Raney. One of his ravens is pictured with him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thought and Memory are two sides of the same mental coin, dual aspects of our cerebral estate. With that in mind, I thought it best to create Thought and Memory as a diptych, which basically is a work consisting of two matching panels. With the operative word being ‘two’, that takes us into the Yin and Yang portion of our discussion. According to Wikipedia, Yin yang (literally meaning dark-bright) describes how supposedly opposite or contradictory forces/concepts may be interconnected and one may give rise to the other, for instance, no beauty without ugliness, no dark without light, etc.

the Yin and the Yang
the Yin and the Yang

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you consider the opening quote from Dune, what Paul Atreides is talking about here is the masculine/feminine quality to each of our personalities; to be sure, we all have some of both regardless of what sex we may actually be. Human nature being what it is, particularly in our Western culture, we get (in my opinion) way too hung up on either/or, all or nothing thinking. It’s either black or white, good or bad, weak or strong, male or female and so on. I find that in life there are very rarely such absolutes. That’s what Paul was saying. In the book (spoilers for those of you who may want to read), the female order of the Bene Gesserit could not look into the masculine portion of their subconscious without damage to their feminine psyche. To that end, they sought to create a male of their order who could fully utilize both portions of their psyche.Thus, Paul became the legendary kwisatz haderach, a being who could effectively see into both the masculine and feminine aspects of his subconscious. Hence he became, as quoted above, the ‘fulcrum’ and as I interpret the quote, a fully integrated, fully actualized human being.

Required reading: Dune by Frank Herbert-the greatest sci-fi book of all time.
Required reading: Dune by Frank Herbert-the greatest sci-fi book of all time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I’m speaking of here is not an ‘I’m X but I identify as Y’ type of outlook. I’m talking about becoming a person who is completely comfortable in whatever sex they happen to be born into, yet have no trouble at all in exercising the opposite viewpoint or aspect of their personalities when need be. That also would also tend to eliminate the hyper-masculinity so prevalent in today’s society and excessive, Marilyn Monroe-esque femininity. Such a person would function out of his or her true personhood and not necessarily out of socially assigned, often ineffective, counter-productive gender roles.

For the yin yang symbol in my diptych, I chose to use complimentary colors (opposite of each other on the color wheel) of blue and orange, in keeping with the theme of opposites.

A yin yang world.
A yin yang world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To tie my diptych together even further and in keeping with the Norse theme, I added the world tree Yggdrasil along its center axis.

In Norse mythology,  Yggdrasil is the world tree which connects all the Nine realms of Norse cosmology, and some consider it analogous to the Tree of Life in Christianity.


The world tree Yggdrasil and the Norse nine realms.
The world tree Yggdrasil and the Norse nine realms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tree of Life as depicted in the sc-fi film 'The Fountain '.
The Tree of Life as depicted in the sci-fi film, ‘The Fountain’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thought and Memory isn’t  the first time trying my hand at a diptych; my last one was a piece called Dichotomy. Again,  this focused on my theme of opposites and equals, with Dichotomy  focusing mainly on the good and bad of human nature; how both the pious and the profane can exist simultaneously in the same person.

 

'The Dichotomy' oil on two 18"x 24" canvases, completed 2010. This was done on two separate frames and photographed together. This was an experiment for me. It didn't exactly fail, but didn't quite turn out the way I wanted, either.
‘The Dichotomy’ oil on two 18″x 24″ canvases, completed 2010. This was done on two separate frames and photographed together. This was an experiment for me. It didn’t exactly fail, but didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted, either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It goes without saying that I’ll keep you posted on the progress of my latest piece(s) here, but to sum up, I’d just like to close out with some of my own personal philosophy. Light or dark, black or white, up or down , whatever; in the end labels don’t matter, only results count.

Huninn...
Huginn…
...or Muninn?
…or Muninn?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See you next time.

 

 

 

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