THE Magazine asked a clinical psychologist and two people who love art for their take on this mixed-media piece—Pasture II—by Suzanne Sbarge. They were shown only the image and were given no other information.
Many peaceful images are layered inside this bucolic scene. While flowers symbolize a plethora of topics (e.g., romance, sympathy, commitment, friendship), the image of a beautiful young woman holding a flower reminds me of the 1960s hippie movement. Bulls are typically thought to represent strength, power, and fertility. Yet they are resting comfortably here. It seems the animals feel safe enough to let their guard down. A bluebird emerges from the woman’s eye like something from Greek mythology. Could this woman be the Goddess of Harmony? Bluebirds are known to symbolize happiness, hope, and the spring season in various cultures. Alternatively, this face may represent Mother Nature presiding over her creation. A mist appears like a tranquil glaze over the scenery. Its presence suggests dawn, an emotionally and physically quiet time. Psychologically, houses are thought to symbolize the psyche and even the personality. They are common dream images. Perhaps this painting is the artist’s dream. If this is true, we are seeing his or her wish for peace.
—Davis K. Brimberg, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist
In spite of the tight fence around Mother Nature’s delicate neck, She looks back at us with knowing, smiling eyes. While humans attempt to separate themselves from Her universe, She rises transcendent and free. Although disguised behind a flower-mask, Nature continues dominant above humankind’s naïve attempts at taming Her. Poised over the landscape of an idealized bucolic scene stolen from a children’s fairytale, Nature glows triumphant. The pastoral illustration fades into the background. Whatever contentment is depicted within it exists only because of Nature’s blessing. She is the ultimate landlord—renting space on the planet as humankind builds houses soon to become vain towers of Babel. Mankind attempts to organize Nature, but his quaint country roads soon turn into ugly, brutal express highways made possible by his disastrous exploitation of fossil fuels. In order to assure his food supply, His simple domestications will turn the rainforests into lifeless dust. All his efforts to exploit Nature will be as the swallow on the wing—fleeting and incomplete.
—Gershon Siegel, Writer
The cut-out and chalked-over photo of a young white woman’s face stares out at us from behind a flower and a bird, and from within Currier & Ives’s American Homestead Summer. The shadow of her neck and shoulders embrace the pastoral scene. She both emerges from and dominates the scene. The sharpest shapes in the piece are the corners of her eyes and lips, the arrow of the cutout cheek, and the bird’s wingtips; all causing my eye to linger and return to the upper left of the collage. But, her blank expression only says, “I am here.” I then explore the pastoral landscape for meaning. The Homestead series of 1868 evoked quintessential American seasonal allusions and illusions, and likely provided the comfort of escape to many white citizens just a few years after the end of the Civil War. Back to the face: could it be Nicky Hilton (or Paris?) of the Hilton Hotels family, so white, so rich, so pretty, staring out at me from within the idyllic American countryside? The fullness of an American summer’s bounty, pretty lips, young white flesh, a red blossom, and a blue bird: how comforting. Unpretty and awkward magazine cutouts glued onto a reproduction of an old lithograph of cows, grass, and trees: how odd. Young, pretty, and innocent questions like “I see red, white, and blue, how ’bout you?” wafting over the clean green setting like a white rich shadow after a civil war.
—Lisa Pelletier, Graphic Designer