General Question

asmonet's avatar

How would you interpret this painting?

Asked by asmonet (21335points) April 30th, 2009

It was painted in 1975 by a man named Charles L. Fontenay who was very important to me (I credit him with jumpstarting my love of reading because as a kid he gave me the latest in his Kipton & Gruff series every time I saw him. :D), I never got a chance to ask him to talk about it outside of when I was a child so, really my entire understanding of it is CUTE LITTLE LOGS! :D And that kind of bugs me, though I love it regardless. Because of how much I loved it he gave it to us shortly before he died.

I was wondering what your interpretation might be, and besides my own curiosity because of my personal attachment, I like to know how others view art in general. So, give it a shot, please?

It’s called Gethsemane.

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34 Answers

Dog's avatar

We all interpret art with our own personal filters. With this disclaimer said I would like to give my feelings on this very interesting painting.

Logs- the remains of life
The postion of the first two- nurturing and protective
the one to the side both resigned and yet still unrepentant

The fire
This holds many meanings to me from spiritual to damnation

The cross- ultimate judgement.

I am going to think on it more and will post again more of what it means to me.

wundayatta's avatar

When I first looked at this, I eventually decided that the flames were kind of magical and had traveled along that shimmering pathway. The logs maybe were, or weren’t people, and it had to be religious because of the cross in the background. So I went to research Gethsemane, and it started to make more sense. Gethsemane was a garden on the Mount Of Olives where Jesus went to pray the night before he was arrested. According to one account, he really didn’t want to die, so he was praying about whether he should do what his Father told him to do, or if he should follow his own, childish will.

Finally, he decided to let them kill him, and when the soldiers came with Judas to arrest him, Judas kissed him on the cheek (Judas Kiss) to indicate who Jesus was. The guards asked him if he was Jesus of Nazareth, and he said, “I am he.” This is apparently the same thing the burning bush told Moses, indicating that the bush was the voice of god.

Well, the fire, then, is the burning bush. The path is travels on could be the history from Moses to Jesus. It is the voice of god speaking to Jesus. The cross is the cross he will be crucified on, or the cross on the church on the Mount of Olives (apparently there have been many churches over the years, but there was one back then, although it must have been a synagogue or perhaps a roman place of worship).

The logs could, as @Dog suggests, be representative of various thoughts in Jesus’ head that night. One is more obviously human than the other. The less human one looks sort of comforting. The human one is on one elbow, as if lying around the fire one night, shooting the shit until you fall asleep. Neither seem to represent the anguish Jesus was supposedly going through that night.

I’m not convinced they are meant to represent Jesus. If so, I don’t think they do a good job of it. Like I said, to me, one isn’t even human and the other looks very relaxed, like it’s having a good time by the fire.

The logs themselves suggest both naturalism and manufacturism. They are cut down, as if being logged, and they could be about to be fed into the fire, or they could symbolize a kind of rape of nature. Cut logs don’t grow, and are a kind of static thing. A curious emblem for Christ, if that is what they are.

The sky is dark and threatening except around the cross, suggesting the gathering storm in which only the cross (church) is safe.

From a non-religious perspective, it seems like it’s about darkness and light. I get a sense of these forces competing, although I’m not sure the competition really matters, because there aren’t really any humans there. There is that cross in the background, but it is an ominous thing. It feels like it’s coming to get you, like some kind of zombie in the background.

The coolest thing in the painting is the fire. This is painted lovingly, and it portrays enormous energy. It seems to dance, and it could almost conceal a figure inside it, as if it was a human fire. It has flown in along this path as if on a magic carpet. It is supernatural, yet it contains a human kind of happiness. It has so much more energy than anything else in the painting. If it is on a magic carpet, you want to hop on and go for the most exciting ride of your life!

kenmc's avatar

It says to me:

“Religion (the fire) looks warm and inviting, but it will burn you (the logs are humans) up.”

It seems anti-religion without appearing so at a first glance.

Blondesjon's avatar

I see it as showing the path to utter purity to be not only an uphill battle, but an impossible one to win.

The cute little logs are us. The fire is our reality, blocking the path to salvation. The fact that we are made of wood and can be consumed by the fire shows that, by our very nature, salvation is always beyond our reach.

A nice little comment on the spiritual condition of the human race.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Looking at the imagery I see:
-A fire burning with no source
-Two humanoid log shapes sleeping next to it. That’s interesting because fire normally consumes wood rather than providing warmth and comfort
-A path leading to a cross. That imagery is pretty straight forward on a surface level. The path links Christianity with the fire which represents several possible themes including passion, warmth, and support of life.

The relationship between the wood figures and the flame is interesting because of contextual contrast.

asmonet's avatar

Hmm, all very interesting so far. Thanks everyone. :)
I’m really enjoying reading these.

charliecompany34's avatar

@asmonet : uh yes, i pondered this piece a few minutes. very interesting. almost haunting. does it seem dali-esque to you?

anyway, have you heard the term “sleeping logs?” that is a factor to be considered. but then again they don’t seem to be sleeping, but possibly writhing with pain in comfort. you get my drift? it is a scene following, possibly, the Ascension, since Christ and/or no one is on the cross up the hill.

three fibrous matters—wood, hay and stubble—are mentioned in the Bible as such that will burn easily when your “spiritual matter” is either of the three. the artist chose wood as one of the three.

the wood, then, represents lackluster approaches to choosing salvation. apparently, we have choices to make before burning like wood, hay or stubble. the fire with no source represents God as he appeared to Moses as a burning bush. it is a collaboration of old and new testament ideals.

charliecompany34's avatar

@asmonet : or, sleeping dogs? like, let sleeping dogs lie.

SeventhSense's avatar

As mentioned by @daloon it appears to depict Gethsemane or Jesus’ time of Trial before he was crucified. The sawn off log (sawing logs) figures seem to represent the disciples who were with him and had fallen asleep. I do think that the bush is representative of the Spirit or voice of God as shown to Moses as a flaming bush.
From matthew 26:
36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41

Nimis's avatar

The logs are the sleeping disciples. The fire is Jesus’ anguish as he prays to His Father. The cross and crucifixtion await him.

The fire also represents Religion. The word of the disciples is what feeds and spreads it—even as it is consumed by the fire itself.

Jayne's avatar

The fact that the fire has the potential to burn the logs, yet does not, and the more humanoid of the figures appears perfectly comfortable in its presence, suggests in light of daloon’s most excellent research that, while Jesus had no way of knowing for sure that he was not headed to his destruction, the reassurances God gave him in the garden, and more generally his faith in God, were enough to let him face his fate with confidence- to recline before the very things that could so easily turn against him, namely the fire, and by extension his father and his disciples- and be calm at the prospect of traveling up that road to Calvary to his crucifixion.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Nimisi like to think the title is tongue in cheek

That is a beautiful answer though. If it is the artist’s personal interpretation than so much the better.

Jayne's avatar

Reading my answer above, one would think that I had never heard of periods. Sorry.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Jayne…I dayr u too spent a weak dooing thes

delirium's avatar


Jayne's avatar

@Blondesjon…if i tryed th@t i think mi brian wud exspload

I think I will submit to delirium’s judgment on this one, if it’s all the same to you.

delirium's avatar

Oh the irony.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Jayneyou’re only saying that because she has an ‘s’ in front of your pronoun.

Jayne's avatar

Jayne is a girl’s name ;)

Blondesjon's avatar

Did you thank your father yet for the gravel in your gut and the spit in your eye?

Jayne's avatar

OK, I will now stop trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

SeventhSense's avatar

I think I found your father. Is it one of these?

augustlan's avatar

For Jayne

He said: “Now you just fought one hell of a fight
And I know you hate me, and you got the right
To kill me now, and I wouldn’t blame you if you do.
But ya ought to thank me, before I die,
For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye
Cause I’m the son-of-a-bitch that named you “Sue.’”

Who knew that Shel Silverstein wrote that?

Jayne's avatar

@augustlan- Ah, it all becomes clear to me now. I mean, not really, but Blondesjon may be slightly less insane than I was heretofore inclined to believe.

SeventhSense's avatar

Been studying at the school of Dennis Miller?
From ABC Monday Night Football, “I haven’t seen anyone rely on the ground game this much since the battle of Verdun.”

asmonet's avatar

Well, it’s nice to see you all have found a new playground.

Blondesjon's avatar

@JayneDon’t sell yourself short. I am quite insane.

Jayne's avatar

@Blondesjon; I finally realized what you were actually talking about. Damn. That took a while.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Jayne . . .Long enough for me to forget.

just kidding. i never know what i’m actually talking about.

sparklefag's avatar

It’s a childish comment on simple game theory. At Gethsemane (oil press gardens) jesus ( whatever that is ) asked two of his sycophantic groupies to stay awake while he prayed so he would not be swayed by temptation (?). So they fall asleep. Later Judas betrays him to the soldiers that come. So deep down when faced with danger people will save themselves instead of sticking together. Constantine’s Sword ( the cross ) was not a symbol of Christianity at the time of jesus ( whatever that is ). A shepherd or a lamb or a bird was used / scrawled to signify your belief in the L. Ron Hubbard of his day. Constantine the Roman conquerer used the symbol of a sword in the ground ( or if you will a crucifix torture symbol ) as his nazi swastika to scare the masses ( this is long after jesus is dead ) into turning christian ( just like the spanish inquisition ) and joining his power base or risk being ostracized as a second class citizen ( jew at the time ). They are ‘burning’ jesus because they no longer need him – the road to their salvation is his death lest they ‘go down’ with him ( the disciples may protest but deep down in their reptilian subconscience, signified by sleep, they know to lay low ). The road to their salvation is the dawn of day ( the sun coming up to provide light and warmth previously given off by jesus – the darkness is their ignorance of science ). I.E the sky around the cross is lit because jesus is bringing way too much heat to the gang. The light signifies life so when the jesus problem is taken care of their survival instincts will be pacified. Remember that the cross is made of wood too. The flame is so intense because it’s jesus ( whatever that is ) railing up at the heavens that nobody’s helping him and or most likely he’s flaming mad that now he has to put up or shut up because he’s talked the talk and now he has to walk the martyrs walk or be shown up as a fake. The painting is also a color palette rip off of Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night over the Rhone’. Using entry level Psychology 101 where they have you draw a picture that has to include these objects: the Sun, a House, a Tree, a Road, a Snake… where the Sun represents your mother, the House your father, the Tree your friends, the Road the path you see ahead of you, the Snake means money ( but the issuer of this exercise does not tell you the meanings ) we can see that the painter has some real issues. His tree (friends) are cut logs, his (sun) mother burns instead of shining from the sky, his house on the hill is a symbol of torture, and the snake is in his signature – he is preoccupied with his own self worth, his road leads to torture etc. Unfortunately for him life is very short and his mind has be filled with useless nonsense. And lets face it this painting is mostly a cartoon, which goes a long way to illuminate how much effort he put into it only to subvert his own self worth. BTW for those of you with faith better read Luke 12:32 Rev. 14:1. It clearly states that only 144,000 will EVER enter Heaven ( 12,000 of each twelve tribes ) and they have to be Jewish, male & virgins. If you don’t believe that then you don’t believe the word of God which is the bible and you still won’t get into heaven for doubting the word of God. Further when you close your eyes and think of jesus you picture a white effete man. jesus was black and short like all the other Jews back then – this means that you have been worshiping a false idol and that your churches have created these images in effigy for you to pray to i.e. now your really not getting into heaven. So what this painting really signifies is that your as confused as it’s creator.

bumwithablackberry's avatar

It’s random symbolism, a joke made at those who try and interpret such.

SeventhSense's avatar

Smoke a lot of cheeba do we? ~_~

asmonet's avatar

@sparklefag: Having known him, and knowing you through your comment… I can safely disregard pretty much everything you’ve said.

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