Monday, July 19, 2010

The Watchers

This is one of those artworks I did just for fun, and later discovered it had a lot of meaning in it.  Since it isn't all that obvious, I'll explain it.  Click on the picture to see it large.

I was making this for a "party"/ art contest I was having on my Flickr stream to celebrate my 3 year anniversary on there.  I wanted to involve people, so I tried to make something interesting, and invited lots of my contacts.  What I didn't think about was, I was saying a lot about myself and my belief system. [to see the contest description and entries on my photostream, click here:
"The Watchers" on ArteZoe's stream on Flickr
to go directly to the related gallery, use this link:]
The Winners' Gallery by ArteZoe on Flickr

I believe this artwork represents a safe, clean and fun celebration. The reason I now call this "The Watchers" is because it is full of personages who are watching "the viewer" and the party-goers.  The reality of this is what keeps a "party" or other get-together safe and fun.  Really, faithful oversight is what should keep life on this planet a free and enjoyable thing.  (There is much to say about this, but I probably won't say it-- I'll let you think about it instead.) 

First, I thought of the woman in the foreground as being my "alter ego," or an artistic representation of myself.  She is the hostess, and the reigning  princess in this artistic space, as I am of my Flickr stream and all my other places, whether in cyberspace or in my 3D world.  If it's in my realm of authority, I have the responsibility of watching over it.  If evil tries to come in, it's my duty to get rid of it.  Because I take this responsibility, my places are safe, fun and peaceful places to be.  I take this very seriously.  To me, hospitality is much more than a physical task, although I try to do my best at that as well.  It is an opportunity to serve people and minister to their souls and spirits as well as bless them with physical pleasure and comfort.  I hope this is what I am able to do with my creative work in general, and in my home.

Because this artwork was a form of self portrait, I put in several things that were symbolic to me personally.  The large chickadee in the foreground represents me as a child.  The reason for this is that my mother always used to call me "chickadee."  The chickadee says to me that I should never lose my childlike joy and wonder in life, or my freedom of creativity.  I need to be true to myself and who I was created to be. 

The chickadee also reminds me that I shouldn't reject the good things about my upbringing: how to be a great hostess was one of the things my mother well demonstrated and taught to me.  Here, the chickadee becomes one of the watchers; although I am free from overbearing parental voices (speaking psychologically), I still respect my parents and the conscience they built into me.  I am most grateful for it, especially seeing so many people these days who seem to have no conscience.  Our conscience can be added as one of the watchers.  If we are still minors, our parents are still watchers in our life.  They are responsible for keeping their children as safe and healthy as they can, giving them a good home and environment, and training them to be fine adults.  The boundaries they set and the discipline they do should be loving and consistent, and based on God's truths and an understanding of them. 

Lack of diligent and loving parenting is one of the main reasons the younger generations are hurting so much.  In general, they seem to be parenting themselves and each other.  This affects the future of society and is a great concern of mine.  In this artwork, the young people are having a free and fun time, without fear or inhibition.  They don't need to be rebellious (or distant from the watchers) because they understand that the watchers have their best interests at heart.  This could be considered a rather utopian view, one which doesn't hold up well if you look around at the world.  This is a Kingdom of God view, not exactly a "world view, because the only trustworthy watchers would be those who are faithfully submitted to God.  Children really can trust them. 

People in the world today seem to be polarizing into one of two categories (speaking in great generalities here): either completely rebellious against all authority, or totally too trusting-- to the gullible and easily deceived and controlled level.  Neither one of these stances are safe.  There's only one way to be truly safe and free, and that is under God's perfect rule and covering.

The glowing gazebo represents a covering and a safe place.  In much of my artwork it also symbolizes a place of romantic privacy and marital bliss, faithfulness and safety.  Interestingly enough (to me at least), the gazebo takes on that meaning here as well.  Another level of meaning in this artwork is purity and faithfulness in a couple's relationship.  The white rose represents love and purity.  The hostess feels safe and generous because she is in proper relationship with her husband (even though he is not obviously in the picture).  The swans always represent marital love, purity and faithfulness in my artwork, as in nature swans stay with their mate throughout their life.  In this artwork, the swans are swimming away from the guests, leading them towards the castle on the lake.  The castle represents the Kingdom of God as a place of safety and loving rule by Christ the King. 

The message in this for the upcoming generations is that it is possible, and needful, to keep themselves sexually pure until marriage, and to keep their marriage holy by being loving and faithful to one another.  As children grow into teens, especially with the pressure towards sexual experimentation and same-sex relationships, it is very important that the watchers in their lives help them in these choices.  It is truly in their best interest to do things God's way, and life definitely is much more fun when one is free from dark and evil.

There are a couple of other watchers, who seem dark, but that is simply because their jobs are mostly unseen by us.  The bagpiper in the gazebo on the right is, at first glance, simply an interesting mode of entertainment.  I put him there because I happen to like bagpipes and other celtic music, and this, of course, is my party!  But thinking about the concept of watchers, I realize he represents another set of watchers: "the great cloud of witnesses" in heaven.  Some of my ancestors are English, Scottish and Irish.  This is part of a traditional heritage that I am interested in historically and artistically.  It is also part of my religious heritage.  The ancestors who have gone before are all watching, hoping we will hold fast to the truths they lived their lives and died for.  As Christians seeking to walk daily by the leading of the Holy Spirit, it is wise not to stray from the foundations and clear paths built by our forebears.

The other mysterious watcher on the left -- the mythical beast the griffin-- represents an angelic warrior to me, I think, as lions and eagles are both spiritual (and prophetically meaningful) symbols in the Bible.  God's angels are watchers who are constantly ready to follow God's word.  As long as we are submitted to God, they will be guarding us and our environment.  The mythological griffin guarded the gold.  In one way, I see the significance of trusting God and His agents to be the watcher over my property, including my intellectual property and images.  Knowing this allows me to be free to show my artwork on the internet.  The spiritual griffin will protect my interests.  I think this griffin also represents my own spirit, watching with discerning spiritual eyes of the eagle and the strength of a lion that comes from the Lord. 

Christ-- the watcher over all--appears on the right, as the lion, as He does very often in my artwork.  Because He is not completely visible, one understands that He is shown as spiritually present at all times.  Looking more deeply and spiritually into the artwork, one can see that the woman actually represents the Church as the bride of Christ, and in this role, she practices hospitality in the world in a very meaningful and powerful way.  The local church is a watcher in the lives of its members, serving them as God's own family.  The universal church of Christ is also a watcher in the world.  She has the responsibility of holding forth the truths of God, meeting needs through God's provision, and bringing the world's issues before His throne in prayer.   

You can take the idea of watchers as a good or bad thing, depending on your point of view.  Many people chafe at the authority of the watchers, and refuse to acknowledge them as being good.  They feel closed in, suffocated, and repressed by the watchers, whether they realize they are there or not.  They rebel.  But others, like myself, are grateful for the watchers.  There is true safety under the watchful eyes of all those who love and take responsibility for seeing God's creation and people treated with justice, righteousness, and love.  God sees everything always, and there's no getting away from it.  Freedom and joy come when we at last realize that He is the light of life.   

A few Scriptures to help you begin a Bible study on the topic of watchers:
Genesis 31:49; Judges 7:17-19; 2Kings 11:5-7; Nehemiah 4:9, 7:3, 12:25; Job 7:20, 13:27; Psalm 127:1, 139; 141:3; Proverbs 15:3; Isaiah 21:6; Jeremiah 18:15; Ezekiel 33: 6-7; Daniel 4:17, 12:1; Nahum 2:1; Mark 13:34-37; Romans 1:30; 1 Corinthians 16:13; Ephesians 6:1-4; Hebrews 12:1,13:7

The background for the artwork was my own photo of a pink crystal chandelier.
Credits for licensed stock images used in this composite:
Royal beauty © Anna Minina
Castle on lake © Stefano Maccari
Bandstand © Martinturzak  
Rose © Jevgenia Petrova
Frozen lake in the alps with swans © Bas Meelker
Misty Sea © Petr Doubek
Beautiful small waterfalls © Wolfgang Amri
Griffin #01 © Ralf Kraft
Detail Romantic garden © Tamas [used to decorate the princess' dress]
Cup of tea and teapot © Galina Ermolaeva
Scottish bagpipes © Photowitch
Vintage Willow Pattern Background © Kathleen Good
Male Lion © Eric Gevaert
Couple jumping © Edyta Pawlowska
Chickadee 7 © Bruce Macqueen 
Peacefull hawaii beach © Csaba Fikker
All stock images licensed from

"The Watchers" is by Karen Gladys Henry.
© 2010 All Rights Reserved.
For permission to use in any way besides a personal desktop or reblogging with link, please email me at


CynDB said...

Love this concept that you explain meaning of your beautiful intricate works. So interesting! said...

Very interesting

David said...

This is a beautiful painting. May I use it in a powerpoint presentation for a sermon on the Lord's Supper?
Pastor David Knight