Visionary Art, Explained (for a change)

Recently I sold two of my older sculpture-paintings and after the check was signed, the collectors asked me to write up “what they mean” … a request that always tantalizes my artist-writer sensibilities. The following explanations of my art might prove interesting to those of you who wonder how an artist works, what thoughts go through our minds as we create, and other “insider” info that you can’t get just by “looking.” Sometimes the viewer needs a “key” or two to unlock the “secrets” an artist (like me) likes to squirrel away, hoping the subconscious stuff I work with will do its job. I’m glad when people ask. But just for the record: I never “tell” the meaning of a piece unless the viewer has had a chance to appreciate it on their own terms. In fact, I insist on NOT talking about symbolism in a piece unless I feel the viewer is genuinely “hooked” and needs to understand more. In this case, the new owners had simply been attracted to the two works for … what? their colors, shapes, sizes, how they matched a couch? God, I hope not! The married couple did not know any of the following subliminal stuff that goes into my works UNTIL after they’d purchased the two pieces. This is their golden ring, the prize of following their guts and appreciating something besides “what’s obvious.”

Here’s the first piece:

family puzzle

Family Puzzle

Family Puzzle, by teZa Lord (

Made from cut-out plywood with volcanic lava immersed in acrylic medium (for surface texture), this painting’s image signifies how families are. Always a puzzle, but closely fitting each other. In this one of the series (there are four, each different) the strongest image is the central geometric shape, the circle within a triangle (an ancient sign for the Divine, God’s energy) with lightning bolts coming from it … showing how important it is to have God-energy (Spirit) central to one’s life, especially in a family. The rows of grain on the upper left corner signify spiritual and worldly nourishment; the fecund, quiet figure on upper right with her abundant, spilling-over Horn of Plenty, is the Mother, the center of a family’s spiritual understanding. The Father in this dream-like piece (aka visionary) could be interpreted as the central bulls-eye, Divine Father. The two young, fetal-shaped children, stretching their hands out to each other are under-developed in many respects, showing the importance of inter-action for healing and wholeness in familial members, whether siblings or parents. The clock represents my birth time (4:07a) and the circular shapes are “evolving” into actual wheels…showing progress, development … how I see civilization progressing positively. These are recurring themes in all my work. The main color of the “puzzle” shape is earthly, while the figures and space around, are bluish, the color of Spirit. If you look back from the painting you can see two “tri-grams” … comprised of three lines each … painted on either side, right and left (together they form the two balanced hexagrams of the I Ching called Peace, 11, or Standstill, 12; depending on the trigrams’ up and down arrangement). The tri-grams are ancient Chinese symbols signifying Yin and Yang, male and female, dark and light … and here, in the puzzle of family life, they are nicely in balance. The left side is Yin (female, broken lines, note the spiral-shaped breasts and womb geometry), and on the right is Yang (male, unbroken lines, note the masculine shaped arrow, pointing to center).

… and the second piece …

Baby Steps

Baby Steps

Baby Steps by teZa Lord (

Constructed in a sculptural manner (physically manipulating, grinding, sanding, removing and applying layers of paint over worked volcanic lava on wooden surface, for texture) Baby Steps depicts my version of the continuity of all life, but specifically how the human race itself is upwardly evolving. Usually portrayed as a female, the central figure in my version is a gender-unspecific rendition of the deity called Nut (pronounced Knut), a figure shown in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics that reenacts the movement of the sun from horizon to horizon. Thus, her/his “downward-dog” like position, extending from continent to continent … or from this world to the next, showing that life is eternal, as the sun always rises for us on Earth. As a spiritual activist I believe in the positive upward evolution of humankind, even though at times it seems we’re on the brink of self-annihilation. The “baby-steps” in this work (seen walking from right to left, in bottom quadrant) are made with goopy gold paint applied to an actual doll that I made “walk” across the board this work was created on. Manipulation of the surface is to make the works in this series appear like 3-D stone carvings, rather than 2-D paintings. The colors of mostly blues, represent the spiritual life. The three mountain peaks painted reddish, in the background, are my way of indicating a “female-ness” about the central figure of Nut, although the protrusions usually on Nut’s chest, in this case, I turned upside down. Isn’t it interesting what you get when you ask the artist to “explain a piece”! I know no one would ever “get” this piece without my explanation of the imagery, and that makes it even more thrilling to create (like sending secret prayers into the world, yes!). I’m intrigued by who is attracted to the subliminal stuff within a work, and who isn’t.

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