Cave, 5.5"h x 6.125"w x 4.75"d
gourd, coal, plastic, steel, steel wire, gouache, acrylic paint, archival board, wood, glass

Caves are hidden realms, having their own extreme geology and often their own unique biota. Some caves can even be considered living as they grow by the action of bacteria on their rocks. The bacteria dissolves the stone, and thus enlarges the space. As the place where precious stones and ores are found, and strange, frightening-looking animals dwell, the cave became the secret place of treasure, often guarded by a monster, spirit or nymph. Another precious commodity, water, is often traced back to the cave which is seen as the source of a river or spring.

Life-giving water and the possibility of wealth, versus dangerous conditions and darkness is the dichotomy of cave symbolism. The cave is both generative and a place of death. It is the womb of the earth and the entrance to the underworld. With the generative qualities of the womb, the cave is where the god Zeus was nurtured to keep his survival secret from his father Kronos. In this depiction, the cave becomes not only the nurturing womb, but also the secret place that keeps even the gods from seeing in. It may have been the notion of the earth womb that inspired prehistoric men to travel deep into caves to paint the animals they hunted on the walls, either to ensure an unending supply of food, or out of an understanding and respect of the powerful fecund forces of the animals themselves.

Viewed as entrances to the underworld, the cave takes on the negative aspects of death and dying. It is easy to become lost in a cave with its twisting route and total darkness. Thus, with the fear of a cave’s real ability to swallow up the soul into the bowels of the earth, it becomes viewed as the place where we go after death. No wonder Dante described the entrance to Hell as a cave with a message to abandon all hope.

In my construction, Cave, I envision both the womb and the underworld. The two forces are a balance of powers. There can be no birth without death. The cycle perpetuates.

Cave was part of the exhibition Nyktomorph at Curious Matter, 
September 20 - October 18, 2009

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