The Presence of What is Absent

We’re told by ancient Greek stories that Aphrodite, the Goddess of sexual love, emerged from the depths of the sea in all her radiant beauty to help us blind humans see the radiant beauty in all the world, (and not incidentally, in each one of us.) The story goes even deeper, which you can discover for yourself when you swim in the ocean or more simply, by allowing yourself to taste the sea when you eat an oyster in its shell. With the brine in your mouth and your eyes closed, it takes no imagination whatever to realize that the sea is our mother, and the mother of everything else, as well.

To me, what’s most interesting about this watercolor, which I drew on Formentera, is what is not present, that is, Aphrodite herself. To be sure, she was a constant, invisible presence as I was drawing, but not in the water, like the vision of Botticelli, but rather surrounding me, like an envelope of light. When I return to California, I’ll invoke her presence directly in another painting, but meanwhile, this is an image of an inlet on a little island off the coast of Spain, where she is about to appear. Trust your imagination. She’s there in the waves. We just can’t see her, yet.


One thought to “The Presence of What is Absent”

  1. This painting and your observations about it, the presence of what seems absent reminds me of several phenomena that are beginning to gain acceptance as facts rather than fantasies or wishful New Age thinking: the Gaia Hypothesis, for example, whereby the entire earth itself is thought to be a living organism, The Hidden Life of Trees, a book which you gave to me as a gift, and what a gift it has been! It’s another manifestation of the theme of your blog entry, astounding things, like communication amongst plant life, that are unseen, even ridiculed as non-existent, and yet are as real as anything one can see and touch (despite the “doubting Thomas” who lurks in us all at least to some degree).

    Well, the painting is attractive for all sorts of reasons. I certainly enjoy the formal elements, the colors, the composition with the jetties that alternate with the water. And I note the presence of human touches that seem almost as timeless as the rocks and sea: the boat, the launch area. Perhaps some of the rocks were placed by humans as breakwaters. And the sentinel tower at the cliff’s edge, an outpost to watch for invaders.

    Your sense that Aphrodite is present but not visible (not yet) enriches the painting even more, adds another dimension, another dynamic between what is apparent and what is immanent.

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