Sunday, April 18, 2010

Making the Unseen Seen - Art can do that

"All is Vanity" by C. Allan Gilbert. Life, death and meaning are intertwined.

I came across this pen and ink illustration a few days ago. Some clever illustrative skills Mr. Gilbert has, he does. I am not sure how old this drawing is but it must have been done somewhere in the late 1800's or early 1900's. What is true then is true now. 

This image struck me as I, once again, am relegated to my bed due to ill health. As I lay there, sick, with an exhaustion that is cell deep and then some, I can't help but think of death. I feel it. We who are chronically ill, we get a fair idea of what it must feel like before you die. You are so exhausted, so sick, there is no energy, not even for hope. 

I love the way art can convey this feeling, this haunting. As the "normies" go about their tea time (or whatever those women are doing in that illustration), distracting themselves with life's pleasant formalities death waits. Ever patient, ever enduring, death sits with hands folded, as we fritter away our life gift frivolously or utilize it in earnest service.


  1. Very interesting pic, makes me ponder.
    I hope You feel better Soon!

  2. Yes, it did the same for me. I wonder where this image was published and for what purpose. How did the people of that time respond to it? Was it a comment on society at that time? It makes me curious in that way as well. Thanks for your well wishes, Blakenetizen :)

  3. Gwen, i remember finding this exact same illustration when i was a young girl inside an art book about illusion and tricks of the eye. The image fascinated me too! I had a less then normal child hood that involved some really intense near death experiences. I found that after the encounters the idea of the finality of death would keep me up at night- would distract me from school work and play. I remember vividly laying awake at night with my hands over my ears chanting things like "rainbows, kittens, ice cream, bubble baths, flowers, candy..." as a way to take my mind off of its morbid fancy. I have slowly grown more accustomed to the idea of death and dying but it is still a very surreal truth. I have learned to look at the face of death as the "guardian at the gate"....the one that ushers in change.
    thanks for posting this. truly.
    i send pixie kisses your way and well wishing for your health.

  4. *Sends you healing vibes all the way!*
    Feel better soon Luv!

  5. many happy returns and good wishes for your good health to return! These optical illusion paintings were very common in the Renaissance too and I think that it might be a sort of guilt. Before the Renaissance there was the fear of the Black Death so maybe there was that lingering still. Its strange, I used to lie awake in fear of being dead when I was 8 or so...death is still surreal though...

  6. Wow thanks LucidRose, Dr. Strychnine (Dolicia) and Lrc for your well health wishes. It is truly a blessing to hear from you.

    Oh dear I didn't mean to bring back childhood trauma LucidRose! It's amazing that you had seen this image as well as a young child. I know there is a term for this type of illusration, I just can't remember it. It reminds me of the inkblot tests (Rorschach test) and Escher drawings and paintings. Fascinating as well Lrd about these types of illustrations/paintings existing in the Renaissance period. I just bought a kid's book (cause that's the speed I read at, lol) about the different types of plague - I kid you not, a kid's book on that, from a second hand book store tonight. I find the human response to death fascinating, my own and other's . Thank you so much for your comments. Love them!