“I stepped onto the stone with both feet and this is what I saw. Again the glowing puff of cloud appeared, but this time it grew brighter, thickened. It became a shining hologram-like coalescence of light, blue and gold, and slowly it shaped itself into…an egg. It seemed to pulse with light and energy, and as I stood there watching in amazement it began to tremble, gave a shudder, cracked, and fell open.”—From last post, ‘The Last Art Gallery, (Part I)’
What emerged looked strangely alive, plantlike. It was a glowing translucent series of images in three dimensions, transforming themselves from one into another. They were definitely classical—and crude—tools and weapons, jewelry and pottery. Next there was an image I recognized from my reading. It was of the infant Hercules strangling a pair of snakes sent against him in his crib.
The image of the infant throttling the snakes pulsed, then slowly, ever so slowly, rose off the left side stone disk, and as it did it changed. It became a man, again crude, but full of power and nobility, striding forward.
The glowing image of light, the noble, almost poetically powerful man rose more, became a woman, equally noble in her commanding self-possession, and began to float across the altar in a high graceful arc, ever changing. The crude lines softened, grew more sure of themselves, less powerful but somehow more pure, more integrated. Midway across the altar, at the top of the arc, it seemed a balance was reached, between inner strength and authority and outer beauty of form. It hung there, at the very apex, and then something undefinable crept in. Doubt, or a hesitancy. Something tragic passed across the image’s features.
Then it continued, on the downslope now toward the right hand disk. The power and possession was disappearing, while the line began to break up, become unsure of itself. The women were naked now, and no longer noble. A sensuality grew out from within the image. A sadness and nostalgia and straining after lost loftiness.
As the image touched the right hand disk I recognized what’s known as the Laocoon Group, a man and his sons contorted with terror and agony as a pair of giant snakes drag them to a watery doom.
After that all was disjointed, unrelated sentimentality and affectation. The images continued, but there was no longer continuity, as if that which had arced across the altar as one had broken up, shattered into fragments.
I stepped off the stone disk onto the floor. As the light dispersed I thought I saw the fleeting image of a cross.
When I had regained my composure I stared down at the next disk on the floor, labeled ‘Western Man.’ “That’s us,” I thought to myself. And on to it I stepped.
Again, above the left hand altar disk the shimmering coalescence of light, again the egg. It gave a violent shudder and cracked open. Once more the crude images, this time Nordic looking ornaments, weaponry. Then it was a warrior, all barbaric power, and then a knight. Bull-like, it was running a dragon through with its lance.
It rose from the disk and began its now familiar arc across the altar. The image became the noble hearted kings and queens of the middle ages. They filled out, lost the crudity and became beautiful and potently confident. Nearing the top a balance approached once more, between inner striving and outer means. The balance was achieved! The light shimmered and danced atop the arc. Then, just as before, the equilibrium was lost. Doubt appeared. I thought I saw an image resembling Don Quixote. More kings and queens, of Spain, England, France, and Germany. Rationalism seemed to undermine the images, sow discord and anxiety.
As it descended towards the right hand disk the image seemed to be fragmenting, and glimpses of the impressionists intruded. It touched down and briefly became a chaotic jumble I later learned was Picasso’s Guernica. A knight had fallen from his mount, his lance broken. Behind him the City was in flames, the people in agony and terror, and a bull bellowed and seemed to be spewing fire, like a dragon.
After that again all was disjointed, as if shattered. There were Pollocks and Warhols and others I recognized and nothing made any sense. There was everything and anything, and nothing at all.
I stood, dazed, and contemplated the final stone disk of the series lying on the floor before the altar. It was labeled simply “Man.” So much had passed before my eyes, so many images, my head whirled.
I stepped on to the stone. Once more, the light gathered atop the left hand disk on the altar. Once more it seemed to coalesce, like a galaxy in the act of formation. It drew together, and became a shimmering egg.
The egg pulsed, shuddered, and I think I saw a crack. But that was all. It just went on glowing, trembling, like something inside was struggling to be born.
But it didn’t crack open.