==Interior Castle (Revisited)==
Interior Castle (Revisited), acrylic on canvas, 33"x33" © 1989 (private collection)
For just as a great stream of water could never fall on us without having an origin somewhere. . .just so it becomes evident that there is someone in the interior of the soul who sends forth these arrows. . .
--Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila
[trans: E. Allison Peers]
The cubes in Interior Castle (Revisited) represent the various dwelling places Teresa describes as composing her soul. One reason why I chose the cube shape to represent these dwelling places is because it is crystalline, referring to Teresa's idea of the "soul's castle" as being like "a very clear crystal." Another important attribute of the cube shape is that it, being composed of squares, corresponds to the square shape of the canvas.
Although St. Teresa of Avila and Hildegard of Bingen did not know each other, it is interesting to
note that, according to Hildegard, the square shape itself symbolizes the "maternal"
attributes of God. For instance, in her vision of the "Golden
Tent [Scivias]" Hildegard depicts the God-head as a four-sided, tent-like
form impregnating Mary's womb. Her representation of the divinity as quaternity, as well
as Trinity, gives a place for the "maternal" aspects of God. Hildegard explicitly relates
"quaternity," as a tent shape, to "maternity" in her Letter to Abbot Adam of Ebrach:
St. Teresa categorized seven different dwelling places in her book,
Interior Castle, but I have painted many more cubes in Interior Castle
(Revisited) because her actual description of her experience within these dwelling
places is much more dynamic and fluid than a rigid adherence to seven rooms or cubes
would portray. There are not seven dwelling places but a million. As described in reference
to my first Interior Castle
painting, Teresa's fluidity is most apparent in that she does not portray the journey inwards
toward God as being spiral or linear:
I tried to get a sense of this envelopment, intricacy and three-dimensionality by superimposing the cubes numerous times and at various angles. I also put the darker, receding colors and the lighter, emerging colors in unexpected places to undermine the viewer's conception of a "cube in space." Both the unexpected coloration and the increasing fragmentation of the cubes are meant to draw the viewer into the painting. In so doing, I hope to induce a type of "mindless state" in the viewer that may, in some manners, recapitulate the "loss of self" Teresa describes as occurring during meditation.
The superimposition of cubes on top of each other also depicts the transformations of both identity and perception that occur during various stages of meditation. A sense of distinction between interior and exterior is lost; it transforms and fragments until a threshold is crossed and a completely new identity "in God" is found. Accordingly, the outer cubes in the painting are less diffused and more clearly defined, while the boundaries among the inner cubes become increasingly blurred and fragmented.
God is represented not only by the painting's silver background, indicating that God
is ubiquitous, but also by the silver cross in the middle
of the painting.
As in the spinning of a cocoon,
God's "womb" and the soul's "womb" are becoming indistinguishably intertwined.
The central cross, representative of Christ, is an appropriate symbol for Teresa's
description of ultimate union with God. It is appropriate because she describes herself as
uniting with both the God-head and with Christ. In the innermost "seventh dwelling
place," she describes herself as having become Christ-like:
The innermost cube that contains the cross can be viewed as both coming forward and receding backwards. This shift in the cube's positioning causes a shift in the cross: The cross can be viewed either as completely surrounded by cubes/dwelling places, or it can be viewed as part of the background that surrounds the cubes/dwelling places. This shifting relates to Teresa's paradoxical notion that one should seek God/Christ within oneself, and yet heed Christ's warning not to "try to hold me within yourself, but hold yourself within me [The Collected Works, Vol. 1; Kavanaugh/Rodriguez]."
Light is another symbol for Christ. The silver portions of the cross extend out to
incorporate blue and green fragments. These blue and green fragments then hit the
corners of the four other cubes and appear to diffract as light would if it were actually
shining out of the cross through crystal. Teresa also uses light imagery to depict union
The fragments, or Light, in this painting evolve both outward and inward, to and from
their Source. Similarly, Teresa intones:
return to Art Gallery: Light
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© 1997-2005 Temple Lee Parker
© 1997-2005 Temple Lee Parker