Friday, May 11, 2007

Painting inspired ramblings, part two

Temptation, sin, downfall, Eve. They're all tied inevitably together. Adam and Eve also have to be one of the most painted themes in all of art history. I found Adams and Eves from every era and almost every school of art that I could think of. Some were sad, longing for a paradise lost. Some fearful, running from a judgmental God. Some were luscious innocents, playing in a garden where one could easily imagine God walking in the cool of the evening. Some were cynical. One, a copyrighted work whose link I can no longer find, was called "Eve Was Framed." It picturing Eve as a stumbling drunk in torn stockings and tarty underwear, holding a flask, pills spilling from her dropped purse, her face reflecting 'just what have I done.' Coiling elegantly and humorously through the tall tree underneath which she half sat, half lay was a smiling serpent.

It's all Eve's fault! She did it! I'm gonna tell!

Well, yeah, she fell to temptation. So did her partner, but Adam gets a little slack. After all he was tempted by woman. Who could resist? I've often wondered if those poor, silly men of older times realized how weak defining woman as irresistible made them look. After all women can resist man. It's more than just our training that keeps women from always falling, thighs open and needy, when a man shows his desire. How much porn is based on the fantasy of the woman who's always aroused, always tempted, always ready? Jeez, guys, not that you're not nice, but we do have other things on our minds as well.

What the usual interpretation of Adam and Eve overlooks is that desire is one of the defining characteristics of being human. The original sin wasn't sex, but trying to be just like God. That was supposed to be the reward of that infamous apple. We, mere silly things too dumb to appreciate everything we had, wanted more than everything paradise could offer. Isn't it interesting that an earthly paradise doesn't include infinite, divine knowledge and wisdom? Doesn't that imply that it would bring an inevitable sadness to those who weren't capable of possessing it? Eden couldn't exist without naivete.

People couldn't be people without desiring more. Miles away from the Judeo-Christian traditions, Buddha knew that we couldn't advance beyond this level of existence without shedding desire from our lives. Look at Klimt's interpretation of Adam. He is a portrait of want and satisfaction, very realistically detailed. Then look at Eve, the symbol of desire. She almost floats just beyond him, when everything about him says she should be in his arms. She lacks his almost photographic quality because Eve as the incarnation of desire is always more than just one mere woman can be. She is not quite real because what we want is always just beyond what our imagination can pin down. I love that the apple is practically hidden by her hair. After all, we know what the real object of desire here is. It is the dream of Eve that makes this Adam so human. It was the actions of Eve that started the first human journey, and desire for something wonderful still drives us today.

The painting is Adam and Eve by Gustav Klimt, painted 1917 - 1918. It is unfinished, but I think that adds to its charm.



Blogger Gannet Girl said...

Great entry, Cynthia.

May 12, 2007 6:32 PM  
Blogger emmapeelDallas said...

Ah, Klimt...I love Klimt. No wonder Eve is so beautiful...good post.


May 12, 2007 11:56 PM  

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