Sunday, August 17, 2014

Magpie Tales #232 : X marks the spot

"Not so fast" I said to myself as I hurried by the huge canvas. "You came here for inspiration - stop and think for a minute."   

This is just not my thing, but let’s see - I like the use of black and white with the red border. In matters of heaven and hell nothing seems black and white so I can see why he did this. I see heaven at the top and clearly that's hell at the bottom. Hmmm, all the hell people have x’es on their heads  - damned I guess. Their bodies are going every which way but is there a pattern in their positions? It's almost like a macabre chorus line, some figures bending forward and some back with arms raised. If it weren’t for the hell fires and those gruesome x’es on their heads, you might think this was celebration of some kind. 

By contrast, all the angels have vacuous white non-faces and empty heads; they all face forward and it looks like they’re fluttering in place like butterflies, going nowhere, even though they have large and splendid wings. The figures aren’t continuous. An empty space (was this where the x used to be?) in the middle seems to be radiating something. They're ethereal and look alien and soulless. The angels have no x'es. It's all too static for me - not my kind of heaven. 

The batmen in the middle have ears which makes them seem more human. Could they hear the fluttering angels and the suffering of the damned?  The bats have x’es on their chests which looks familiar to me.  This is where the soul resides, the nuns always told us in catechism classes: under the lungs, in the back, football shaped, pure white when you’re born and gradually accumulating x’es for each sin you commit, until you die;  then the color gets assessed and you either go up to heaven or you go down to hell. The emanations from the bat heads are not as soft and curvy as those of the angels... they look more solid and substantial, like knowledge perhaps. The bats look like they're sinking down towards the bottom of the canvas. Oh oh....they're in crucifixion positions.

On the bright side, the batmen have wings, although they look weak and impotent by comparison to the angels. They exist right on the fringe of hell, flames licking at their feet; probably the spiritual positions most humans occupy most of the time. I identify with the batmen; they look balanced with some good and some bad. Their x'es look about the right size for moderate sinners like myself. 

Alright, I've got to move along, but one last thought. Too bad about the big ring scene in the middle complicating matters sublimely. If you could get rid of that and while you’re at it, delete the puzzling figure on the cross (forgive me Keith), then you might be better able to handle the Siamese twins in the upper right. I can't figure them out; are these brain washed people tripping the light fantastic or married people yoked together for life and one is clearly trying to run away? Probably marriage given the title of the work.

The only things I'm sure of as I look at this piece is that X, always the unknown quantity, marks the spot.  And Keith was a genius.

Solve for X with other contributions over at

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your analysis immensely. Keith was certainly a strange one, wasn't he? I have a calendar of his artwork, we'll have to sit down and analyze those some day while we're eating sandwiches at the Yellow Deli.