She first came to me in 2005 in a dark massage room. Not quite fully formed, but with many of her elements intact. I had been deep into reading Plato’s Allegory of The Cave and Montaigne’s Essays, so I was primed for The Muse to lead me into unknown territory. How amazed my fledgling artist self would be to see into the future almost two decades and wonder at how that momentary flash of a composition would reverberate through my life.
Being a massage therapist was one of the smartest artistic steps I ever took. The dark cave-like room, the silence, and the focus on the tactile over any visual distractions; these elements gave me the freedom to wander down intuitive paths that might never have been discovered in more social environments. I send out a big thank you to those many clients who unknowingly shared in my quiet revelations. One of these sessions birthed The Allegory of The Truthseeker. After she came to me, I was never quite the same person. Her strength in the face of adversity has encouraged my own fortitude to cement itself into what would become my character. Her struggle towards the light helped me to form an understanding of good and evil in the world and in myself.
That hour-long session resulted in the first version of The Truthseeker. She has taken a clearer shape every day since.
A female figure in profile. The book of Veritas clutched under her arm. A sword in her other hand.
A snake in the lower right field, biting her calf. She was moving through the landscape from the darkness towards the light. She was wearing some kind of armor. Throw all these elements into a mosaic medium and you have a recipe for a very challenging piece of art. She petrified me.
So, over the years, The Truthseeker eluded me. As Steven Pressfield would say, she became the embodiment of Resistance. With every passing year, I said to myself, “I’m not quite ready.” I need to become a better artist first. I need more time to study human anatomy. Those are the words of an artist bullshitting herself. I threw myself into every other ambitious project I could imagine, in order to prove to myself that I was worthy, even if I was afraid of that one big challenge.
Somewhere along the way in this self-imposed resistance to the truth, I had the great fortune to share her story with my cousin, Ashley Judd. Being the dragon slayer that she is, Ashley got the vision and wanted to be a part of making her come to life. Even with that incredible catalyst of a commissioned piece, I failed to act. It took me five more years, and another nudge from Ashley, to realize that the time had come. If I didn’t face my demons and act, this fear would curdle inside me and I would look back as an old woman whose hands no longer hold a hammer, facing that most dreadful of emotions, regret.
From December to April of 2019, I may not have spent one full night of healthy sleep. My stomach was a ball of knots until the day we got Her successfully hung on Ashley’s farmhouse wall. The act of making art is mostly filled with excitement and joy. I can attest to moments of that as I built The Truthseeker, but mostly, she was formed through a singular kind of agony. More than any others of my art, she was birthed, and it was a rough delivery.
From the spirit animals (snake, owl, mole, crow, rabbit, squirrel and fox) chosen for their sacred meanings to the mosaic techniques and elements (black, jagged shards of shale to represent the dark of the unknown and Plato’s cave itself, to the light and bright French Litovi porcelain) to her physical form which was torn up and redone several times, this mosaic asked for all that I had to give.
The sword was transformed into a walking stick and the shield acquired The Mayflower as a nod to the ancestors we share. I brought in another beloved cousin to build the giant custom frame from vintage cherry wood from our grandfather’s farm. My favorite parts were tucking secrets into crevices and corners that only Ashley will see and understand. I didn’t expect her to end up atop a cliff, looking out over the world. Yet I love that she seems ready to step over the edge into that terra incognita that all truthseekers understand. This is where enlightened paths lay.
Looking back after a hard-won struggle, the prize is a dragon slayed. I will always have her in my back pocket now, to give me confidence and to embrace the fear.