The piece, “Light and Dark Side of Mankind,” is the first painting that compelled me to write a note of appreciation to the artist.
For me, this piece represents something my son said when he was five or six years old. At the time, he was interested in riddles like, “Mom, what’s black and white and read all over? A newspaper!” “What has a thumb and four fingers, but isn’t alive? A glove!” “What’s has to be broken before it can be used? An egg!”
One day, when we were driving home from day care, he called to me from the car seat in the row behind me. “Hey Mom, what’s better than you and worse than you?”
I glanced back at him and smiled. “What, honey?”
Astounded by the depth of the riddle I had to remind myself to look back at the road. I adjusted the rearview mirror to look at him and ask, “Where’d you hear that, Sam?”
“No where. I just made it up.” Something changed in his eyes. “Did I say something wrong?”
“No, what you said was amazing! I’ll never forget it, honey. It sounded like something the Buddha would say.”
“Who’s ‘the Buddha’?”
“He’s a wise man, like Jesus… only fatter and happier.”
What he said that day has stuck with me for over twenty years, because I realized we can choose— every single minute, of every single day— to be the best or worst versions of ourselves. But, we can’t eradicate either side no matter how hard we try. The dichotomy of the impulse to harm is tempered by the urge to heal. We are all living, breathing contradictions.
If a shred of doubt remains about whether we all contain dark and light, I encourage you to think back to the last time you argued with someone that you care about. For me, it was moretempting to hurt than to mend. I knew the words that could destroy him… and our relationship. He’d unwittingly triggered me. Stepped on a bomb he didn’t know existed.
It took every fiber of my being not to lash out. I’ll admit it, my dark side is made of fire and I’m quite capable of burning everything to the ground. But just because I can, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
I’d come up with a mantra for moments like that: “I am love, I am light… I am reacting like an insane person, so don’t open your mouth until you can calm the h*ll down.”
This painting exemplifies the need to consciously choose to live in the light, knowing the dark side follows us in the same way shadows do; impossible to lose.
The image of the woman, appearing before the planet, with a rod of light in one hand and a staff of darkness in the other, is a hauntingly accurate depiction of spiritual division. One cannot thrive with half of a body, half of a heart, half of a mind.
Of course, art is subjective. Perhaps my interpretation is completely different than the artist’s intention. But great creators understand that art affects people in distinctly unique ways.
We interpret what we see, because of every life-altering event that took place before we laid eyes on something that feels like love at first sight. It’s an instant wherein everything in the world stops and someone or something speaks to you in a way that says, I understood you before you walked through the door.
That’s what “Light and Dark Side of Mankind” did for me. I’ll never forget the impact of seeing it for the first time, just as I’ve never forgotten the wisdom of my son’s words. Finally, I have a way to show people what I’ve felt for so many years and I’ll be eternally grateful that a “mere mortal” could pull it off.