The Lyricals are made to arouse the universal in us. This series is related to contemporary dance: without a narrative, the figures and faces suggest and evoke. Caught in an instant of movement, my dancers deliver meaning through internal poise.



In the language of the pastoral tradition, these allegorical paintings revisit and update Western culture's relationship with Nature. In 1988, as I started the Threatened Landscape series, I set out to effect change. It was apparent that, without intervention, a former way of life was about to perish. In the face of upward-spiraling land values and the pressures of overdevelopment, I performed a series of art-based public appeals. The inexorable growth in the San Francisco Bay Area has not stopped, or even slowed, but I continue to explore this theme.

The classical reference
I was born in San Diego in 1953 and raised in Menlo Park, near Stanford University. Early on I was affected by the strength and idealism in the architectural references to classical antiquity all around me. A century before I was born, big California land brokers, who saw themselves as Argonauts reliving a classical legend, invented a romantic mythology to celebrate and increase their own financial gain. Well educated and savvy, they imported an entire visual culture, dotting the Western landscape with buildings reminiscent of imperial Rome. I grew up unaware that the "antiquity" around me was a recent import, crafted as an advertising campaign to attract profitable westward movement. Through innocent eyes, I had seen it as deeply rooted, serious, and good--a visual ideal that remains linked to my graceful home landscape. I was swept up by these "relics" of the ancient Argonauts' campaign and classical mythology became my cultural inheritance, despite the perverse reasons for its introduction to California. The same land developers who, through classical reference, invoked beauty, abundance and dreamy ideals in my back yard, spawned a persisting exploitative trend in development. My paintings depict the subjugation of our mythic spirits and their final defilement--destruction by the same avarice that brought them here.



SURVEYOR'S STAKE: A New Symbol. Wild areas, with their endless variety, provide places for contemplation and stimulation, for creative, intellectual, and spiritual discovery. We draw comfort from the sense of continuity with the past that untamed Nature offers. The sight of a surveyor's stake on previously wild land brings feelings of powerlessness in the face of a dominating, money-first ethos. The stakes symbolize the imposition of values that are antithetical to our spiritual and intellectual being. Each surveyor's stake is another assault on our aesthetic sensibilities, a harbinger of painful loss and impending deprivation--the cursing of our sense of eternity and promise. This is forced upon us by blind and greedy people who have the power to do so, to the cost of native plants and wild animals--and us. We, who do not espouse this exploitative standard, know the riches that can be found within the natural and free things that do remain in our midst.

FEMALE FIGURE: Hamadryad. A traditional meaning of the female nude is as a depiction of a Nature spirit. One of these, the Hamadryad, represents a stand of oaks. Noble, robust, fertile, full of potential, she oversees the health of her trees. The trees form a domain--a graceful, wild, wise, and magical place--where people go to meet God, and themselves. Historically, Hamadryads are depicted as Nature's seductive playmates from whom humans take pleasure, solace and wisdom. Hamadryads suffer when their trees are defiled and perish when their trees die. Their context destroyed, they lose their purpose. Because of rampant development our heritage of Nature Symbols is being systematically disembodied, along with Nature itself. To invoke Nature spirits in traditional treatments, without expressing the present threat to their existence, would be to lie.

MALE FIGURE: Satyr. A symbol for untamed Nature.







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1999 by Rebecca Alzofon. All rights reserved.