One of my greatest interests in the enjoyment and production of art is the experience or encounter of that moment when the utterly profane and the truly profound meet–or even better, prove to be the very same thing. I have tried to create just such a moment in “Interior Castle,” thereby allowing that which would normally be disregarded or, more correctly, underestimated as juvenile become the portal to the most mature and significant of human experiences.
The title originates in the 1577 religious treatise on prayer and meditation written by Saint Teresa of Avila. In this treatise Teresa of Avila writes of the process of approaching God through the interior life of the soul as a movement through seven stages which she describes as mansions or rooms. The movement toward God…the movement through the mansions…is a movement inward…a movement deeper into the soul of the one on the journey and, therefore, a movement of more and more profound self-knowledge which will lead to a knowledge of the Divine found at the core of individual identity. In the painting, I have created this type of inward movement by creating seven distinct background spaces each contained within the other to the point that the final taped square forms a virtual frame of very intimate proportions around the one searching…in this case Superman. He is left with no room to move so as to be forced to be with himself.
I chose Superman for very specific reasons. First, I find that the mythology of ancient times…the gods and goddesses of Athens and Rome…and the mythology of medieval and Renaissance times…the saints and sinners of the Christian era…pose problems of access for the great majority of contemporary viewers due to either lack of basic familiarity or lack of resonance. So, instead, I chose from the pantheon of Pop mythology, selecting the Zeus or Christ of the Pop realm…Superman…as the means by which to tell the story. The reader, thereby, has access by the very fact that it is Superman. It just so happens that Superman inhabited a place very similar to an interior castle…a place where he could be profoundly and intimately himself…where he would not have to hide his real identity under the disguise of Clark Kent…the Fortress of Solitude. This connection brings to light the fact that, though Superman is a pulp hero crafted for the young, the psychology that resonates in his character and around him as a symbol is quite profound. Even though he is Superman…nearly invincible and blessed with an abundance of power and a correlated degree of self-confidence…his identity and all that comes with that identity like his connection to his past which forged that identity must remain hidden from public view. His greatest vulnerability is the exposure of his identity.
The ultimate meaning of the painting derives from the point where the “Interior Castle” and the Fortress of Solitude meet in a conceptual sense. Every individual desires to realize the fullness of his or her identity. Reality more often than not necessitates that this realization is expressed in its fullness in the depths of our own being…apart from the view of the overwhelming majority of others. This aspiration also manifests itself in the development of social units (friendships and family and physical spaces (the home, the artist’s studio, particular sacred spaces) where perfect self-knowledge and full self-expression might be realized and all trappings and costumes might be discarded. In the painting Superman represents the aspiration of every individual in contemporary popular culture to inhabit these physical and psychological spaces.