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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Journey into the Unconscious

WPCA Features Neo-Symbolist Jean D. Sobon

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The joy of viewing Walker’s Point Center for the Arts’ collection by featured member Jean D. Sobon is in the endless potential for interpretation. Although the collection is small, the culture-spanning imagery and symbolism are immense in each work. Using mixed media, drawing and painting, the artworks challenge us to make connections between elements of the human experience across time.

In Via Lactaea we find the Madonna seated upon a crescent moon with an underlay of zodiac signs. Above them is a drawing of the famous statue of the twin founders of Rome suckling from their surrogate mother—an immense she-wolf. Both visceral and poignant, this “Milky Way” aptly suggests the transcendent nature of motherhood in both cosmic and human terms.

In the two-part series Forest of Shadows and Forest of Delights, the artist explores symbolic dichotomies. The former evokes a twilit forest populated by ferocious beasts and a Chinese demon figure that seem to melt in and out of the shadows under examination. The latter, although still dark in palette, encompasses more life-affirming symbols from many cultures; present are the Buddha, Cupid, Quan Yin, Vishnu and Athena’s totem owl. Through these two works—so similar at first glance—associations arise with Freud’s life and death urges, “Eros” and “Thanatos,” and of course Bosch’s iconic Renaissance triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Sobon’s A Growing Season takes the pairing of life and death imagery to the next level, conjuring the two within the continuum of the lifecycle and pointing toward humanity’s connection to the rest of nature. The central figure here is a human embryo nestled within a buried seed. Within and around the gestating subject float a juvenile cicada, a Mardi Gras saxophonist, the infinite spiral of a nautilus shell and a queen graciously receiving the skeletal apparition of Death.

Rich and provocative, one can hardly help but lose track of time staring into the depths of Sobon’s complex symbolist work.

“Featured Member Exhibition: Jean D. Sobon” will be on display through July 6, at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, 839 S. Fifth St.

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