Painting Of The Day

Nirvana By Mikel Elam

Nirvana By Mikel Elam

…..Guest Blogger, Patrick Breslin a professor of Speech Communication at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida; writes a commentary about Mikel Elam’s state of “Nirvana”, the studio’s Painting of the Day…….

Mikel Elam’s painting titled “Nirvana” depicts a male figure seated in meditation. The painting is a partial patchwork: the figure’s head encased in an orange square, the torso in a dark gray one. The background contains light colored disks, gold leaf squares, and dark purple 5-spoked behandled circles reminiscent of Buddhist icons, all ensconced in rectangular shapes. The dominant shade at the bottom of the painting is also purple, suggesting a base or ground, and philosophically linked to the icons; the top is adorned with swaths of blue, suggesting sky.

The meditator in the painting is a multiracial collage. The head appears African; the torso a shade of bronze; the lower abdomen and legs partake of a dark Caucasian complexion; the arms lighter—the left hinting at orange, the right bordering on pink—, and both terminating in an empty space of unpainted hands.

The title of the piece suggests several interpretations. Nirvana by definition refers to the ultimate peaceful state, and the multiracial makeup of the subject of the painting seems to propose that the blending of races, or at least their acceptance of one another, might lead to a peaceful existence. In the context of meditation as understood in popular culture, the lower abdomen whimsically lacks a navel, the historically clichéd object of meditation, causing the viewer to wonder whether the meditator in the painting is a holy incarnation not born of a woman. The viewer observes that the head of the subject does not fully connect to the body; the two are separated by a strip of the orange color from the box that surrounds the head. One could read into this that the nirvanic state of the meditator is all within the mind, disembodied, the concept of which does align with classic Buddhist perspectives.

The goal of meditation is enlightenment, whose common metaphor is light. Meditation is practiced in the mind—in the head—, yet the color scheme of the meditator’s body in the painting casts the darkest shades on the head and the lightest ones on the nonexistent hands, reversing the typical expectation and intimating that perhaps through the hands one expresses one’s degree of spiritual development, as Elam may be attempting to do in this work.

Pat Breslin Vulcan Days

Pat Breslin Vulcan Days

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