A Man

of  Zen



Acrylic on vinyl
22 in. x 28 in

Price: U$ 500.00

 “My Cup Runneth Over”

          “Incomprehensible and fathomless Heaven
          Wraps up all the earthly profoundness,
          Hiding its brightness within Earth's depths;—
          All Heaven's intents are dwelling in integrity.”

Yang Xiong (53 BCE-18 CE)
                                                 ["Canon of Supreme Mystery"]

         This image rises as a contra-tempo, a contrasting, and alternative or complementary choice to Mercury’s Caduceus (Rod of Hermes). The image in the painting is a symbol of healing. However, the caduceus is not a symbol of healing. The Caduceus is only often confused with the symbol of healing because it is so similar to the Rod of Asclepius. The Rod of Asclepius, in its turn, is a symbol of healing. Both have a snake (or snakes) entwined around a staff (Phallic symbols). In particular, the Caduceus has two winged snakes facing each other; the rod of Asclepius has only one snake and it is never winged.

          The diagram of the painting features the balance of dual elements like the Caduceus. However, it is not phallic. More than that, the diagram rejoices and shines on not being phallic. It is based on curves and round shapes. And, to the contrary of the caduceus, it is a symbol of healing.

          Two rings (“alianças” in Portuguese) are connected in the center of the painting being the very core of the whole arrangement. At the same point in the painting, two half-spheres are joined by the summits of their circumferences. The shapes are feminine and exude a down-to-earth, well-grounded, and receptive feeling.

          The joining of the two half-spheres reminds me of Plato’s myth of Androgynous. The halves in the painting form a whole. However, the whole is not an enclosed sphere. It is a cup: open and receptive. Interestingly enough, the words “receptive” and “recipe” are related etymologically. Would receptivity be a recipe for healing? Is the cup above carrying the medicine of receptivity?

          Like the rod of Asclepius, the cup of Hygeia is also a symbol of healing. The Ancient Greek goddess Hygeia, daughter of Asclepius, was associated with feminine traits of healing: hygiene, cleanliness, sanitation (prevention of sickness), and conservation of good health.

          Even though the Caduceus of Hermes is not a symbol of healing, it carries a very rich symbolism that lends meaning to this painting, too. Hermes was the patron god of Alchemy (also called Hermeticism). One of the goals of alchemists was to transform base metals into precious metals (Gold from lead, for example). However, the esoteric/spiritual/religious aspect of Alchemy aimed at the purification of the human spirit.

          One of the maxims of alchemy was:

          "That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is       

          Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing."

          The elements of healing, sublimation, mutual connection, and even complicity are the very heart of this painting. The painting aims at the expression of purity (geometry) nobleness (gold color) and soothing nurturance (Hygeia’s cup). On the other side, this painting was inspired by a very sexual dream.

          In summary, the dream was about two bi-sexual women. One white, the other brown, lovers, walking around naked in a rendezvous. At some point in the dream, they kiss an old sickly man soothing the man’s suffering.

          When I woke up from the dream, the name “Milk and Honey” came immediately to my mind. Not just because of the color of the women’s skin, but the promise and enticement of the Land of Honey and Milk as narrated in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Therefore, the cup in the painting is not only Hygeia’s cup. It is also King David’s cup (“My cup runneth over”) and Jesus’s grail. Even though King’s David cup and Jesu’s grail images come from religious scriptures both cups were mostly used to drink wine (an inebriating earthly drink). Mary Magdalene was a prostitute like women, “Milk” and “Honey”, in my dream. According to the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene was the first one to see Christ resurrected. Why would Christ show himself first to an ex-prostitute? However, we have also to remember that even though Mary Magdalene carries the stigma of having been a prostitute, there is no mention in the Bible that she has ever been a prostitute.
The painting is about inebriation, pleasure, freedom, and healing, transcendence, resurrection. Also, it’s as much about compassion as it is about passion. The diagram is at the same time the cup of Hygeia and two women having sex. The half-spheres are their bottoms and breasts. The circles in the center represent more than one type of female erogenous zone rubbing on each other. As their bodies overflow with erotic fluids, David’s cup and Jesus’s grail overflow with wine, and the cup of Hygeia overflows with medicine.

          Even though the remembrance of the masculine figures of Mercury, Asclepius, King David, and Jesus permeates this text, the diagram in the painting is exclusively feminine. Or, at least, it is the depiction of the victory of the feminine by overflowing, drowning, and washing out toxic masculinity by not being able to be contained or even contain itself their sensuality, love, and joy de vivre.

          The painting like the symbol of “The Land of Milk and Honey” is all about the conjoining, the union of two contrasting and specular elements to form a healing arrangement. It reminds the original meaning of the word “healing”: to make whole.

          The over-position of triangles appears twice in the diagram. Once inside the cup, and a second time floating over the cup. As with every other symbol in the painting, the triangles have different levels of meaning. Symbolically, a pointing down triangle means “what is below”. A pointing-up triangle means “what is above”. In this painting they appear twice conjoining inside the wine/medicine and in the skies: “As above, as below.”

          At the same time, triangles have their shape attributed to women’s pubic areas. These two women having sex is a rebellion against the historic and religious hegemony of men. They are rebelling with their bodies (inside the cup: wine, medicine, body fluids) and they are doing it with their spirits (in the skies). The symbol floating in the sky reminds me of the Star of David. The Star of David among other things represents Israel (The Land of Milk and Honey). But the star in the sky chose to be represented as the conjoining of a white triangle representing the “below”, and the black triangle representing what is “above”. At the same time, the white triangle, in my mind, is a representation of the white dove that appeared during the baptism of Christ in the Bible. Interestingly enough, “dove” is slang for women's genitalia in Brazilian Portuguese.
In the first version of this painting that came to my mind right after the dream, the word “Milk” appeared written above the cup, and “Honey” appeared written below the cup. However, as I went working on the drafts, the letter “K” at the end of “Milk” and the letter “Y” at the end of “Honey” decided to stand alone. Eventually, the letter “K” became an “X” over a trace. Ultimately, I figured out by insight, that these letters were a reference to the XY sex-determination system.
Human females have two of the same kind of sex chromosomes (XX). Human males carry two different kinds of sex chromosomes (XY). In the absence of chromosome Y, the fetus becomes a female. The “X” in the painting is a representation of female power and it is a trace of negation of the “stick” (phallic symbol). The “Y” is inverted showing that the masculine chromosome has been toppled over. The upside-down “Y” looks like the Greek letter lambda. Interestingly enough, the word “lambida” in Portuguese means a lick, an action of the tongue. Therefore, this inverted “Y” may as well represent the tongue of men being twisted into silence which opens wide doors for the full freedom of expression and exercise of power and healing as gender for women.

          Tiresias, a prophet in Ancient Greece, was called to become a counselor to the gods for having lived seven years as a woman. He was turned into a woman by Hera as punishment for striking with a stick a pair of copulating snakes. A stick and two snakes remind me of the Caduceus. Zeus himself asked Tiresias which gender had more pleasure during sex, men or women, because Tiresias had experienced sex as both. Tiresias answered: "Of ten parts a man enjoys one only."
As one last observation, the rings are central to the painting not only geometrically but also in meaning. The word for wedding rings in Portuguese is “aliança”. Therefore, the core of the painting is about alliance. An Alliance brings separate parts together towards one goal and identity. “Aliança” also means a wedding ring. In the case of this painting the alliance, the wedding, is between two moons, a crescent moon, and a waning moon. The shape in which the rings connect reminds me of Ouroboros, the snake connected to itself that represents eternity through constant self “re-creation”. The use of the word “re-creation” is very fortuitous because reminds me of recreation and calls my attention to the fact that the alliance between the two moons is a re-creation by recreation, pleasure, and joy like the two females in my dream running around healing people with sensuality, compassion and tenderness.

          One of the moons in the alliance presents itself using the symbol of Lilith. Lilith was the first wife of Adam and was made of the same mud he was. She left him because he wanted to dominate her. Lilith in astrology represents the repressed and demonized feminine power and sexuality within women. Lilith as a symbol is a specular image of Eve who was created not from the same matter as Adam but from his rib and was expected to be subservient and frigid. In this painting, Lilith and Eve become one in alliance in the shape of Ouroboros, self-completion. The snakes in the caduceus and in the rod of Asclepius are not in an alliance. The union between Eve and Lilith is the union between passion and compassion. It is an image of re-creation and healing through playfulness, receptivity, and nurturing in contrast to Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” in which a male touches another with a phallic symbol in a relationship of contrasting power.