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stephen linsteadt

Gateway l Stephen Linsteadt

Gateway, oil on canvas, 193 x 216 cm, 2021 - $7,500

In previous paintings, I have delt with the symbology of serpents from tales about Medusa as symbols of change and transformation. I am interested in both the social context of the reclamation of feminine power and the personal transformation of consciousness. The barrier to both lies in our preconditioned attitudes and subsequent responses to fear and outside threats. This response is also a physical response found in the midbrain. The thalamus controls what we are allowed to "see". In front of the thalamus is the basal ganglia, guarding the thalamus like a serpent. The tail of this serpent is the amygdala, which controls our motor responses to fear or threats from trauma memory, just like the aspects of the south node in astrology, which is also referred to as the tail of the dragon. The top of the basal ganglia is the caudate nucleus that responds to pleasure and drives the feel-good hormones associated with ambition, desire, and arousal just like the north node in astrology or the head of the dragon.

Stories of The Hero's Journey takes us from the tail to the head, and if successful we can overcome the dragon in the cave and attain the stone it is guarding (the thalamus)--the gateway to enlightenment. Hence, the serpent appears as the brain's basal ganglia, which guards our inner vision and prevents us from being receptive to change out of fear and behavioral conditioning. It is our thalamus that makes decisions from which external stimuli is passed on to our conscious awareness. Opening the thalamus to a fuller spectrum of information provides access to higher knowledge and wisdom. This is journey I am trying to convey visually in the painting, almost like Egyptian hieroglyphics.

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