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Pandora’s Box of Hope

pandora's box of hope 3-D artbox by Janet Fox with colorful encaustic surface black trim beads lament poem hope stone
Pandora’s Box of Hope | encaustic mixed media

What a Year it’s Been!

Hard to believe, but what has felt like the longest year has passed since the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 disease came into our lives and turned our world upside-down. We’ve faced so much – together but also alone: the unknown, fear, panic, confusion, isolation, sickness, lingering symptoms, deaths of loved ones. More than half a million people have died – and that’s just in the U.S. Those lost were individuals – someone’s child, sibling, parent, spouse, grandparent, friend. The total loss is too much to really comprehend.

It’s also been a huge struggle and so much work to address job, business, school, and social losses and changes. And these are just a few of the impacts due to the virus. The years of built-up social and racial inequities have been laid bare for all to see. Add the heated, divisive rhetoric and politics. Top it off with the chaotic destructive attack on our nation’s Capitol in early January and its aftermath.

“What a Year It’s Been” feels like such an understatement. We’ve been forced to individually and collectively witness, experience, endure. How do we process all of this and re-create a better world?

A “Buggie” Dream Metaphor to Explore

Sometime late last summer, I awoke from an unusual dream…

Once upon a dreamscape… I am at my children’s elementary school, talking with an old friend in a work room. My friend’s child started playing on the custodian’s computer. Before long, I begin to see flies, bees, wasps, moths, mosquitos, and all sort of other insects flying and multi-sized bugs crawling around. At first there were just a few. But then there are more, and more, and more! It is so odd, I know something is not quite right. I walk through the building and find the custodian. As I explained what’s been happening, the custodian knows exactly what to do to fix it. We walked into the work room and the custodian makes a few keystrokes at the computer. Immediately, the bugs turn around and start flying and crawling towards the computer and into the screen. As it turns out, my friend’s child had accidentally opened up the portal and let all of these bugs out. I am amazed at how easy it is to put those insects back into the virtual world where they belonged. I wake up.

As I considered this dream, I was reminded of Pandora’s Box, an ancient story with which I was only vaguely familiar.

Pandora and the Gift Box

As it goes, in the Greek myth, Pandora was the first woman created and the gods gave her many amazing gifts. These included intelligence, curiosity, beauty, compassion, and many more wonderful attributes. But Zeus’ gift, which was the last one to be given, was a small box. It had chains and a lock around it. When giving the box to Pandora, Zeus instructed her to never open the box.

At first, this wasn’t a problem for Pandora. She had so many other things to explore around her. But as the time passed, she began thinking about the box. At first these thoughts came now and then. But later on, these thoughts grew stronger and more frequent. Pandora wondered what could possibly be in the box? Why wouldn’t Zeus want her to see it? These occasional thoughts became an obsession gnawing at her. Overall, what a crazy-making gift! Perhaps if she just peeked once, she would be able to relieve her great curiosity and go on with life as usual.

The harder she tried to resist, the more she thought about what might be in the box. At long last, Pandora just couldn’t focus on anything else, so she decided to just go ahead and open the box! And what did she find? All thing disastrous, disgusting, ugly, evil, deadly pushed and screamed their way out. Such horrors she could have never imagined. She was shocked and stunned.

After seeing these awful things emerge, Pandora tried with all her might to gather them all up to put back into the box. She tried and tried and tried. But it was too late. Pandora was struck with panic, grief, fear, regret, remorse. How can this grave mistake ever be repaired? Could she ever be forgiven? Could she ever forgive herself?

Between her wailing sobs, she heard one more sound from inside the box. As she crept near and took a closer look into the box, “hope” came pouring out to her, and into the world. In all of her darkness and despair, hope’s light was the one last gift to get her through.

COVID as a Pandora’s Box Metaphor

Just as Pandora faced a different world after she opened the box, we have all also been forced to face a new world due to the virus. Have we taken the time to process these losses?

Many people process life-changing events by recognizing and learning about the stages of grief described in the pioneering work of Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. These stages of Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance typical swirl through us as we grieve our losses. Understanding these stages can also be helpful while experiencing life-altering illnesses, broken relationships, and losses of all kinds. And as we come through the other side, with hope we can re-invent ourselves in our “new normal”.

I’m also reminded that Mr. Rogers said that when he was little and would see horrible news stories, his mom always said to look for the helpers. Then you’ll know that there’s hope. Although COVID has taken so much from us, countless people have also pitched in to help in so many ways. Their generosity, compassion, and hard work has given us so much hope that we can make it through and reinvent ourselves, our families, communities, and beyond.

And a friend just sent me this thoughtful reflection on hope, titled: Disturbing the Peace, from a series of interviews in 1985-86 conducted by the The Vaclav Havel Library Foundation with Czech journal Karel Hvížd’ala.

About Pandora’s Box of Hope

It’s been a year of many laments, many passionate expressions of grief or sorrow. I’ve intentionally taken a year to make this art as a way to process the emotions and feelings from everything lost due to COVID. Although no one can put the darkness of the virus back “into its locked box”, I’ve discovered hope for our future demonstrated by the many acts of care, compassion, kindness, hard work, and love that I’ve witnessed.

This encaustic-covered box has many layers of colorful paper and pastel colored wax on the outside, with a black velvet lining inside. Black onyx bead chains make up the ties broken open. A small scroll penned with “Pandora’s Lament,” an original imagined poem, partners with a stone engraved with “HOPE.”

Pandora’s Lament

(sobbing)

Oh, no! What have I done? What is this horror I’ve unleashed? I can’t bear to look at it. It is so awful, dreadful, horrible! Stupid, pitiful me. I have no tears left.

I thought I was so smart. I thought I was so noble. I thought I knew the world, but I was so naive! I didn’t now such evil could even exist.

I was so, so very wrong. I regret my actions. I am so ashamed. I am so very, very sorry. How can I ever repair this? I can only hope to be forgiven some day.

All I have left is hope.

The box is 5″ wide X 6″ tall X 5″ deep.

 For information about viewing or purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox. Check out my Encaustic Portfolio for other pieces.

Seven Directions Mandala

An encaustic mandala painting "Seven Directions Mandala" by Janet Fox with rainbow colors
Seven Directions Mandala | encaustic mixed media

Seven Directions Mandala

Sometime in the 1990’s, I went to a workshop to learn how to make a seven-sided drum head. A Native American man led the workshop and shared a beautiful story of a quest. Each side of the drum head represented one day in the story. Although I no longer recall his story exactly, it influenced my version…

Once upon a dreamtime, a very curious girl was outside, dancing freely and twirling around in her secret garden. She spent many hours there, tending to the flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruit, and all the creatures living there. The girl loved to bathe in the aroma of the sweet flowers, run through the basil, dill and thyme, and gently crumple the rich soil between her fingers before planting seeds.

After many days and nights, she became restless. She wondered what was beyond the garden. Leaving the garden she loved and knew so well was scary. But something was calling to her, so she called up her courage and prepared for her journey to find what was calling – to find a treasure.

On the first day, she heard an infant cooing, so she followed her to the east, all the way to the sea, but she did not find the treasure.

Next, on the second day, she followed a little girl to the west, over the farthest and highest mountains. But the treasure was not there, either.

Then on the third day, she met a fierce maiden, and together, they went to the north, over the frozen tundra and icy glaciers. Once again, they did not find the treasure.

Now on the fourth day, she saw a great commotion and in the middle, found a bride. Together, they went south and through the great tropical forests to the farthest point possible. They looked and looked, but they did not find the treasure there.

On the fifth day, she came upon a mother. Together, they flew up, through the clouds, past the moon and the sun and stars and back. No matter how far they went, they could not find the treasure.

But she would not give up. On the sixth day, she met an old grandmother in the shadow of a tree by the seaside. They went down, under the sea and to the bottom of the deepest ocean canyons and caves. But after all of the swimming and searching, they still did not find the treasure.

The seventh dawned and the girl was very discouraged. She had gone in every direction she knew of to find the treasure and didn’t know where else to turn. Then in the middle of the garden, in the tall grasses, she noticed a Scarlet Boa. She had seen it before from afar, but during all her time exploring in the garden, she had not found the courage to look at it up close. Mustering all of her energy, the girl gazed at it and soon noticed its beautiful skin of smooth scales in all shades of red, rose, and burgundy.

While the girl did not know it, the Scarlet Boa had been with her on all of her travels, watching over her for her safety. She began to understand that it was her spirit animal, her friend and protector. As the girl watched, the scarlet boa began dancing and twisting around in circles. She was mesmerized and lost track of its tail… and then she realized that was because it was swallowing it!

Suddenly, she knew exactly where to turn to find her treasure. There was one more direction yet to go, one that she hadn’t even thought of to explore.

The girl closed her eyes, quieted her mind, and began counting her breaths in and out. At first, it was quiet and dark but as her eyes adjusted, she began to see the tiniest pinpoint of light coming from a place deep within. As she ventured toward it, the light very gradually grew in size, beckoning her to come closer. As the girl did so, she was overcome by a loving warmth, the greatest peacefulness she had ever experienced. For she had discovered her treasure; it was inside of her all along. At last, she had discovered her center, and she was at home.

Finding “Home” within

Does this story resonate with you? In my experience, I’ve had many times when I didn’t know what to do, so I looked outward for guidance. I spent many days, months, and years looking. But somewhere along the way, someone asked me to hold up my hand and point to the place where I’d look next. And then, as my index finger pointed outward, they asked me what my other three fingers were doing.

Those other three fingers pointed back at me, directly towards my own center. Ah-haaa!

Looking internally, I began to discover the wondrous, mysterious world of my dreams. That was a long time ago and my dream explorations have been so lively and rich, with many ah-ha moments, especially when sharing with a friend or within a trusted dream group. I’ve also enjoyed dialoging with and honoring my dreams, especially through making art (many examples which are on this site). And although my dreams have personal meanings and significance, I’ve also learned that others taking on one of my dreams-as if it were there own-can find their own ah-ha’s. And I’ve discovered my own ah-ha’s when I’ve taken on their dreams, too. I feel so alive when this happens!

Snake images, often scarlet in color, have been a part of my dream world for many years. Once I get over the surprise and fear of the symbol, I often become lucid – aware that I’m dreaming while doing so. This awareness can allow me the freedom to interact within the dream. Snakes are ancient creatures and symbols. According to Wikipedia researchers, snakes in the ouroboros form – a circle or figure 8 allowing it to swallow its own tail – also symbolize eternity, the cycle of birth and death, the unity of all things, and more.

What is a mandala?

According to Wikipedia, in common use, mandala has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm of the universe. Carl Jung Resources describes mandala as “a graphical representation of the center, (or Self), which can appear in dreams and visions or it can be created spontaneously by drawing.” It’s easy to get absorbed in making a mandala – figuring out symmetry, adding symbols, filling in shapes with colors and details.

Besides thinking of the story above, my art is loosely inspired by the amazing detailed temple murals by Shashi Dhoj Tulachan at the Bowers Museum in Anaheim, California. If you’re in the area, stop by to see the ongoing exhibit, Sacred Realms: Temple Murals by Shashi Dhoj Tulachan From the Gayle and Edward P. Roski Collection.

About Seven Directions Mandala

Seven Directions Mandala is an original encaustic painting, with pastel, shellac, and ink. I enjoy the garden, flowers, and energy in this story. The seven sections are for each direction, and the colors represent the energy chakra regions of a human. Somehow, all of these ideas came together for me in this painting. What do you see in it? Enjoy!

 For information about viewing or purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox.

Updated October 13, 2019

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Two Fish in the Pool

Close-up image of an encaustic painting by Janet Fox titled "Two Fish in the Pool."
Two Fish in the Pool | encaustic and pastel

Two Fish in the Pool

Sleep-time dreams have fascinated me since I was a child. Often, I wake up with an adventure of some kind to write down in my dream journal. But when I awoke on a late February morning, I had no memory of a dream. Instead, I learned that I had been talking in my sleep. Intrigued, I created Two Fish in the Pool. In my slumber, I had said these words: “I put two fish in the pool. In the POOL!”

Sleep talking

Why two fish? What kind of pool? Why did I put them there? Did it remind me of anything or any place where I’ve been before?

I remembered a former home where we built a small fish pond with a waterfall in the back yard. We filled the little pond with a few beautiful koi and also some feeder goldfish rescued from the bait and tackle shop. It was very relaxing to sit by the pond, watching the fish swim around and come to the surface when we dropped food pellets into the water and sometimes chase each other. It was also a fantastic “in the moment” meditation spot: listening to the sounds of the water, the birds chirping, and the road in the distance. Combined with sweet aromas of water lilies and other garden plant, I would sometimes gently tap on my drum. If conditions were right, at a certain point it all melded together, like being in a symphony with the surroundings. It was such a refreshing experience and warm memory.

Pisces

I also went googling to see what text, images, or ideas would strike my fancy. Searching for “two fish” led to me Pisces, the zodiac sign for people born between February 18th – March 20th. Since this experience occurred during this period, I decided to continue exploring this idea in my art studio:

Close-up image of an encaustic and watercolor painting by Janet Fox titled "From the Sea."
From the Sea | encaustic and watercolor

  • The images of Pisces showed two fish swimming in opposite directions. But as I created some mock-up pieces, what I painted was less direction-ally defined. For although the two fish are going in opposite directions, they could just as easily turn and chase each other in a playful or frantic circle.
  • I’ve often dreamt of water, either being close to the shore, walking in the waves, or completely submerged and in a different underwater realm. This painting focused on the narrow space, just below the surface of the crystal clear water.
  • A few of my other water-themed encaustic or mixed paintings include: From the Sea (shown), which has a similar vibe, Submerged, Seaside Dancer, Rain Drip, and Cool Water.
  • I also have two acrylic paintings, one of the beautiful southern Oregon shore and one of the Franz Josef Glacier on New Zealand’s South Island.

About Two Fish in the Pool

I used my favorite turquoise and copper orange family of colors in this 12″ x 12″ encaustic painting on a cradled board. After carving the scales, fins, and other marks into the encaustic, I filled in with more color. The finishing touches were those sleep-spoken words and, for good measure, a Pisces symbol ♓.

 For information about viewing or purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox.

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She Chi

Close-up image of an encaustic mixed media painting by Janet Fox titled "She Chi."
She Chi (focal panel) | encaustic mixed media

She Chi or feminine energy

She Chi is an original, 7-panel, encaustic mixed media painting inspired by an amazing springtime dream that went something like this…

Once upon a dreamscape, a woman was spending a quiet spring evening in a peaceful secluded park at the edge of a forest. Positioned up a bit on a hillside, she sees train tracks over yonder with a very unusual train. The train’s cars were open face, with flat beds and many cozy spaces.

One of the cars, toward the back, is humming with a lot of motion. As she zooms her eyes and focuses in, she realizes the car is full of something living. It is full of all kinds of incredible talking ovaries!” They are fully alive and chattering amongst themselves, but only about what they know best…every and all kind of egg thing imaginable! Some were quiet and in serious conversations, while others were joking and laughing. This was a surprising and curious sight, indeed!

The next car toward the front on the train is similar, except it is full of stomachs! They were busy talking about what they know best… all kinds of stomach things! And so it went like that all the way up to the front of the train, to where the brains were driving the engine.

Now on the track in front of this women’s train, a big, dark and hollow train was barely moving, all tuckered out with only a tiny spark of energy.

About now, “HER” voice from another realm is heard all around, filling every sound space. “SHE” directs the women’s train to approach the hollow train and to “drive through” it to fill it out from within. Once inside, the women’s train engine carefully makes its way through to the hollow train’s engine space, where it begins to settle down and fill it out.

Finally, as this union is complete, “SHE” declares the plan a success!…

A dream calls out to be painted

This dreamscape absolutely caught my attention; I was especially intrigued by the talking ovaries. The feminine voices must be heard: they were animated, energized, and speaking their truth in so many ways. This vivid dream was bound to inspire a painting, plus some interesting conversations and insight, too.

While working on some initial ideas and sketches, I researched to learn more about this area of the female body:

  • The Female Pelvis, Anatomy and Exercises,” by Blandine Calais-Germain, is filled with easy-to-understand text and illustrations showing the pelvic bones, how they are shaped, and how they move and work together. Separate chapters focus on the muscles, tendons, and organs. See how amazing this area is – able to dramatically expand and transform during pregnancy, childbirth, and then in later years. The book also shows targeted exercises to help keep this area healthy. While reading this book, I realized how much about this area I had not known before!
  • Turning to the emotional, psychological, and spiritual realms, “The Creation of Health” by Dr. C. Norman Shealy and intuitive Caroline M. Myss explores the flow – and blockages – of energy, or chi, in this second sacral chakra region.
  • And in the outer world, so many female voices are courageously speaking out, demanding to be heard and inspired by the #MeToo movement.

About She Chi

Seven panel image of an encaustic mixed media painting by Janet Fox titled "She Chi."
She Chi | encaustic mixed media

This complete art piece includes 7 squares, each representing one of the chakra regions of a human being.

I emphasized the orange, second chakra area, with thin o-shaped coils of handwritten, egg and ovary-themed notepaper embedded in multiple layers of pigmented encaustic. A variety of round or egg-shaped beads fill many, but not all of the coils. Finally, the feminine charm in the painting’s center, perhaps symbolizing a sort of kundalini experience, provides the energy to push forth its truth.

 For information about viewing or purchasing this artwork, contact Janet Fox.

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CityScape Escape

Image of an encaustic and ink painting by Janet Fox titled "CityScape."
CityScape | encaustic and paper (sold)

Escaping in a Cityscape

I recently took a trip to Brooklyn, New York, to relax, see some art, and enjoy the cityscape. While there, I visited the awesome artworks in the Brooklyn Museum. Here’s a bit of how my rejuvenating day went…

First of all, imagine having a yummy brekky and a spiced chai concoction in a gluten-free friendly cafe on a lazy, sunny Saturday morning. Next, we meander along the city sidewalks, gazing at this and that in an assortment of interesting stop windows. Along the way, we discover it’s also an open art studio weekend.

Walking half-way down the block, we see an open studio. So we climb the steps and enter artist Doug Beube‘s studio and gallery. We are absolutely WOWed by his beautiful bookwork, collage and mixed media art! After spending an hour exploring and enjoying his work and chatting, we decide to buy his book, Breaking the Codex. (Mr. Beube’s website has a fantastic variety of his art; I think you’ll be amazed, too!)

As a result of our visit, we have a renewed sense of creative energy and continue our journey to the museum.

Almost to the Museum now, we see lots of people in motion, moving this way and that. Some are sitting, soaking up the sunshine. As we sit for a bit at the Museum front plaza, imagine looking down from the sky and seeing all the others arriving from different directions.

Discovering ancient encaustic paintings

Imagine now, entering the Museum and roaming lazily through the exhibits. Suddenly to my surprise and delight, I discover the famous ancient Fayum Mummy portraits on display on a wall across the room! I recognized them immediately but didn’t realize they were in the Museum. These paintings are some of the earliest known pieces using encaustic paint, which has become my favorite medium. As a result, photos of them are in many books about encaustic painting.

My favorites include Noblewoman and Mummy Portrait of a Man. I stand mesmerized and study them for what felt like a very long time. So many questions swirl in my head. Who, specifically, painted them? What techniques did she or he use? Finally, did the painters back then have any inkling that many, many generations later, half-way around the world, people in Brooklyn would be viewing and appreciating their art with awe?

About Cityscape

I set out creating Cityscape by starting with one of my earlier paintings, Unwinding. After heating and scraping away the paint, I added new layers of paper shapes and encaustic paint and medium. The rainbow of colors and shapes the diversity of people, structures, green spaces and energy. Going to the city to unwind and discover somethings old and new can be quite rejuvenating!

How do you unwind in the city?

 For information about purchasing a similar artwork, contact Janet Fox.

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Wise Woman

Image of an encaustic painting by Janet Fox titled "Today With The Wise Woman."
Today With The Wise Woman | encaustic | 12″ h X 12″ w | 1st Place, Abstract & 3-D, Montgomery Art Association’s 2016 Creative Expressions

 

Seeking the ageless wise woman

Today, I’m thinking of the ageless wise woman. When I wake up in the morning, I often spend a few minutes lying still, listening to my body and thankful that I’m alive for another day. Most days have a schedule. But on days that don’t, I like to choose an intention and see if I can work on it throughout the day. Some days, I think of who I might see and what question I might ask of them.

Characteristics of the wise woman

Who is this wise woman? She is the one who knows all things from a feminine perspective. I don’t think there is such a being within one person, but I try to look for core characteristics in the many people, female and male, who I will meet today.

Business woman, author and broadcaster Lynne Franks’ presents wise women traits in this TEDxWhitehallWomen video. In it, she notes traits of responsibility, connection, laughter, creativity, leadership, teaching, nurturing, confidence-building, mentoring, integrity, courage, and bridge-building to generations of the future. I’m also reminded of the Hindu goddess Kali, who is a creator but also known for being a destroyer of what is no longer helpful, especially the dark forces.

I’ve been fortunate to know many wise women. They show strength, vulnerability, compassion, humility, respect, love. They use their smarts, experience, and hearts to make the world a better place.

Here are a few other ideas about the wise woman:

Which energies do I need most today?

Hmmm. Is it laughter, creativity, leadership, mentoring, courage, letting go of something… or something else I need today? When the opportunity is here, will I serve as a mentor to another? How will I make the world a better place for the generations of the future? What can I contribute? How does my purpose today fit into the purpose for my life?

About Today with the Wise Woman

Image of an encaustic painting by Janet Fox titled "Today With The Wise Man."
Today With The Wise Man | encaustic | 12″ h X 12″ w

With May’s celebration of Mothers Day, I created this encaustic mixed-media painting in honor of the many wise women in the world. I used my favorite turquoise to surround the rust-colored feminine symbol, which also happens to be the sign and the color for the planet Venus. The tiny round glass beads fit nicely with the larger copper staff with the carved bead. The short poem encircling the symbol leads to the bigger note: “Today With the Ageless Wise Woman.” It’s companion painting, Today With the Wise Man, is my next post.

For information about purchasing this artwork and/or its companion art, contact Janet Fox.

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