WOMEN & WHEELS


A Few Thoughts, Ideas, and Commentary
by William John Meegan
[with additional clarification by Vita in blue text]
edited by Kathy Feig

     It is very interesting that the artist, Vita, has picked up on the idea that women found freedom with the wheel: the bicycle.  In setting out on a series of 12-paintings giving homage to women he has crossed over into that mystical world of abstractions, which only artists and poets can transcend.
     There are so many familiar motifs that Vita touches on that it would seem as if the aeons themselves have taken the project away from him in order to use his communiqué for its purpose rather than allowing him to express himself: his conscious efforts are surpassed by the very symbolism that he chooses to convey his ideas.  The spirit takes one where it wills to go not vice versa.  All symbols have messages given to them by the aeons long before the artist took up the paintbrush or the author his pen or even the sculptor his chisel.  It is for this very reason that the aeons can transubstantiate an artist’s canvas, or an author’s page, or a sculptor’s marble, for its mercurial communiqué.
     Woman represents space as in a container.  She brings forth life and invokes the idea of the renewal of life and life eternal, whereas, the man in his linear thought processes represents time: history and the annihilation of the race and life in general.  This is why man is a curator of religious lore rather than being a procreator of it.  Man is always claiming that the end of revelation has come and gone, whereas, woman rejects the mausoleums that are the museums of the world which preach such rhetorical nonsense, which Vita symbolically calls upon the major religions of the world to stand for.
     The use of the wheel is in every sense calling up images of mandala symbolism.  Vita’s bicycle wheel is definitely a female’s mandala.  [Not necessarily, the invention of the bicycle gave women the opportunity to move freely without the supervision of man. See Annie Cohen Kopchovsky/Annie Londonderry who, in 1894, went around the world on a bike.]   The two famous cultures that deal with sand-painting mandalas, Tibet Buddhism and the Navajo Indians speak volumes as to the true nature of this genre of symbolism.  The sand-painting mandala is made up of a rainbow of colors, which is a feminine symbol (note the hues of colors in female clothing as oppose to the solid color of men’s clothing) but most important to note is that such mandalas are made up of millions of pieces of sand.  Sand invokes the idea of time as in the ‘sands of time’.  Just as it takes a volume of words (constructed by their letters) to explain a picture, so to, is the mandala so explained.  Modern scholasticism would have us believe that the image (goddess) died with the invention of the alphabet.  On the contrary she is eternally with us in the esoteric structure of the sacred scriptures of the world.  Just as the human female has been relegated to insignificant in the man’s world, so to has the goddess been banished from the patriarchal religions.  Yet, spirituality can only be obtained through recognizing her preeminent position in all things spiritual, otherwise man is doomed to live out his existence in the hell fires and damnation of his own destructive rhetoric.
     Another thing that comes to mind is that woman represents the psyche as oppose to the masculine that represents materialism: the body, which encloses the psyche.  Vita’s basic point is that women find freedom with the wheel.  The feminine or matriarchal authority represents the cycle of seasons and all the motifs that deal with cyclic imagery in their makeup, whereas, the masculine represents the patriarchal authority or linear/straight line of existence (history).  He is a bull in a china shop.   Man is basically sightless with blinders on and demonstrates a tendency for tunnel vision.  The absence of the male from these 12-paintings speaks just as many volumes as the feminine presence. 
     Throughout the series the female is for the most part at a distance from the man’s world shown in the background: she is on the edge of civilization (as seen in ‘The Flat’, as if she prefers nature to the harshness of the concrete jungle.)  [In 'The Flat', the woman sarcastically emulates the praying posture of the Muslim male while fixing the flat, solving her own problems].  Ironically it is because of her that civilization exists.  In her self imposed exile, she is lost in the serenity of her thoughts.  It may well be that civilization may have come about to give the man something to do while the woman goes about populating and educating the world.  Joseph Campbell in his POWER OF MYTH series tells how the human family mimics the antics of the monkey.  While the female takes care of the children the male is out patrolling his territory.  And while it is not time to gather the food the males invent games to keep themselves occupied.  This same conduct is seen in many primitive native societies to the point of inventing deadly mock war games between tribes.
     The nudity is quite apt for such a series of paintings concerning the feminine principle. [The reason for nudity has other interpretations. It means that the woman is comfortable in her own skin and irreverent to religious icons. Furthermore, the nudity offers the opportunity to fool the viewer into believing that the compositions are set in the past when, in reality, it is the presence of ancient religious icons that confuse the morals of today’s society.]  The fact that she is riding, kneeling, standing, and sitting on the clothing materials rather than wearing them demonstrates it is her choice as if affronted by the apparel encasing and covering up who she is: just as the eternal youthful psyche is offended by the body’s aging.  It is a moral mandate from the masculine point of view ‘to cover up what he thinks is the woman’s virtue’.  This is precisely what the masculine does in the sacred scriptures of the world.  The masculine clothes the woman in words and storylines that are, for all intent and purpose, meaningless as to her sacred role in the scriptures.  Such mundane and historical text completely obliterates the feminine principle’s importance from existence; this is essentially why the human female is cast as a second-class citizen in the real world of mundane reality.  She is, after all, in a masculine materialistic world and completely out of her element: out of her natural environment.  Just as the moon obtains its glory from the sun, so too does woman obtain, in the material world, recognition through her man and even then the recognition is practically nonexistent.  These apparent inequalities in the masculine world, concerning the female gender, are no accidents of nature, they are a mirror image of what takes place in the mental spiritual realm.  What is above is below and vice versa.  When we say the man dominates on earth, then he must dominate in heaven is a false reading of Christ’s mandate of what is above is below.  Believe it: in heaven women have all the say – in hell the men do. 
     Nudity as symbolism in itself is not erotic, rather it is a representation of equality.  In fact this series of paintings is devoid of eroticism and the details to the female figure that would announce it.  A matriarchal idea of life seeks 50%/50% recognition with its male counterpart, whereas, the patriarchal authority eternally beating its chest seeks whatever it can dictate over 51%: preferably 100%.  For a man only feels equal to his woman in his own nudity, which he feels shame only after he has had his way with her: thus he feels the need to dress himself in order to regain his so-called moral superiority.  Throughout the series there is the overwhelming absence of the male figure other than the symbols that represent him. [There is Christ, lost on the cross, looking up toward the sky for his Father’s guidance].   The dead or sleeping religious buildings or mausoleums: Taj Mahal (grave for a dead princess), Saint Peter’s Basilica (crypt for dead saints), and the Dome of the Rock (a gutted building where archeologists dig for a long dead religion and a past that is better off being forgotten), and the destroyed Buddha figure, are all appropriately in the background: a graveyard of tombstones denoting past spiritual glories: bygone histories. 
     The viewer is forced to wonder where the masculine principle is.  Often the male is spent after he is sated and sleeps the moment away.  Yet, it is in those moments in the aftermath of love that he should be wide-awake utilizing that creative mental energy released into the world in order to revitalize his own spiritual source but he would rather let it dissipate into the material ether rather then to understand what he had wrought.  If the human race only understood the spiritual mental energies and creative byproduct that is generated in the afterglow of love, such energies would invigorate the world.  But the man would rather imitate his waking hours by sleeping the moment away.  This is why the woman is alone in this series of paintings.  The male once spent has no further need for his woman and he in turn is as useless as he is at any other time of the day.


WOMEN AND WHEELS:
THE CYCLE/SERIES OF 12-PAINTINGS:


Using the above comments on the cycle/series of Vita’s 12-paintings as my guide, the following observations on the individual paintings are made.

“Against the Wind” is paradoxical in its imagery because the psyche is represented symbolically by the spirit or wind in the esoteric realm of ideas.  [Simply a metaphor for pushing against the wind, a summary of the series and of the women’s journey through time and places].  It is obvious what Vita is saying from the Suffrage Movement’s point of view but we have the entire series to consider, which has taken on a life of its own.  The Suffrage Movement, the initial idea of these 12-paintings, seems to have taken a back seat to the phenomenon of the series.  The woman’s struggle against the masculine world is an external ongoing and everlasting battle but the uphill battle against the wind is a battle against the feminine principle: to be all she can be.   The self-doubts and the anxieties of going against the norm is an enormous problem that confronts each of us, female or male: for we all have to take on the specters that haunt our consciousness somewhere in time and eternity.  That is what they are ‘specters’ or a.k.a. mirages of the mind: for they have no substance or power other then that which we individually give them.  To battle against oneself is like spitting in the wind.  Collectively women are realizing that the patriarchal authority’s power is obtained only from the governed: he who has no power cannot hold back the tide.
“The Expectation” has a young pregnant female ruminating over a tricycle as if to ask ‘is this to be the new messiah’ as every birth on earth has that potentiality looming over it. [While she steps on the rosary, she wishes freedom from religious doctrines for the upcoming generation].  She will of course be the child’s educator and in every sense of the word; the female/mother is the educator of the world.  It is a tricycle after all that she contemplates and the #3 is the number of woman and the #2 is the number of man.  Just as Mary straddles/dominates the ass, which symbolizes Joseph, the alleged father of Jesus, so to does the woman symbolically straddle/dominate her man when she rides her two-wheel bike, just as the psyche guides the body through the tempest of life.  The mind of the ship is the helm: therefore the helm/mind of the ship/body is its guide.  [The tricycle is solely for the coming child].
“A Moment of Glory” is magnificent in its design.  Her trophy is at her feet and she is victorious.  It reminds one of Saint Paul edict to get into the race.  Here the woman is saying she has run the race and has soared past the Bishop of Rome to the gate of heaven.  How true that is because Saint Peter’s gate is in the beginning of Purgatory in Dante’s Divine Comedy: it is not in heaven.  The gate of Saint Peter is symbolically the Catholic Church: Purgatory.  Certainly, Vita could not have had this consciously in mind when he painted it.  It is obviously woman casting off orthodoxy, which is an abomination to her, but the aeons have inserted their message.  [While familiar with your analogies, my intent was to give her the glory that the church does not deserve].
“Resting” is another extraordinary part of the series seeing the woman like Peter is mirror imaging the crucifixion of Christ.  Peter had finally stopped his eternal confrontation with Christ and gave into the imitation of Christ: and was made into his image.  This is precisely what the feminine principle does in the sacred scriptures: mirror images the teachings of Christ esoterically.  The masculine historical text wiped that message out for only a few to read.  Only those that become spiritually minded will see the feminine principle: the Goddess in the esoteric teachings of the scriptures. [The only use of the cross is for the woman to rest her legs and the bike. The religious meaning is defaced by becoming a simple rack. The Christ looks on another direction incapable of appreciating her beauty of her nature]
Does Vita know that red is for man and blue is for woman? We tend to think of these colors in reverse of this. Yet, it is woman (blue) that puts on the red creating the Adamic personality and it is the man (red-Adam) who darns the blue creating the Adamic personality.
I understand Vita color-coding the religions here in this series but the colors would have to stand for the universality of the rainbow. [The colored cloth is solely used to group the different religions. In addition, it is also a platform for the female figures, separating her from the anachronistic symbols of the past].
“The Challenger” has a bicycle with the word ‘specialized’ on it as if it was made especially for her. (Specialized is a brand of bicycle). She comes to memorial of love: the Taj Mahal.  What is she seeking in this building?  Is she looking for a clue as to what was in the character of the woman that inspired a man to create such a memorial to love?  Her back is to the monument and is the monument itself the ‘The Challenger’?  Is the building saying: “be yourself’?  Does the building challeng us not to imitate others but to let our own hearts speak for us?   What a contrast this painting is to have at her feet the instruments of conflagration and at the same time a monument to the beauty of love.  One is a testament to a man’s dissatisfaction and great disappointment and the other of his eternal memory of that which he could not bear to loose.
But are the gas can and matches ‘The Challenger’?  Are they beckoning to her to obey tradition where she is obligated to throw herself on the pyre, now that her husband is dead, and she is a free woman?  This is India after all.  The fact that she is alone demonstrates that she has no pressing obligations: hence the death of her husband. [In view of the Indian or Pakistani tradition of burning the wife after the vanishing of her beauty or the dowry, she now has the control of the gas can and the matches.]
No, she has to be ‘The Challenger’.  She challenges herself to cast off age-old traditions and leave town: to live her life and not the life the cast system has laid out for her.  This is derived from her back facing the Taj Mahal, which has come to symbolize India and all its traditions.  The fact that she has helmet in hand indicates she has made up her mind and is on the point of leaving.
“The Flat” illustrates a woman that has her own method of reaching out to God.  Inwardly she is bowing to her feminine nature. [She is self sufficient in solving her own setbacks].  She works over her wheel as a Catholic works the Rosary or the Buddhist the prayer beads: other spiritual cycles.  As Vita points out, she is bowed like a Moslem in prayer.  It is her private method and this is demonstrated by her being on the outskirts of all the traditional religious buildings: far from the riveting eyes of orthodoxy.  This triangle of religious buildings, that Vita has masterminded in this painting, is liken to the V-formation set up by the enemy in war where the unsuspecting grunt walks into the machinegun’s crossfire: the gauntlet, from which there is no escape: “our way or the highway”.   It is interesting that Vita calls this painting ‘The Flat’.  The air (spirit?) goes out of the tire (mandala) and she realizes she has to fix it herself even with all the expert macho spiritual mechanics surrounding her.   Because the woman is being left to her own devices - is this not why alternative religious thought springs up in the grassroots of society?  Is this not the birth of a host of complimentary spiritual amalgamations such as Wicca, Gnosis, and Occult practices?  It would seem that the numerous orthodoxies in the world bring this flight from their embrace upon themselves.
 “Ready to Leave” has a large temple complex in the background similar to the Tibet Buddhism monastery in Cambodia.  Like ‘The Flat’, she is eternally maintaining her bicycle indicating she is ready to leave at any moment.  She seems to be touring the world looking for something: herself?  Aren’t we all, who find ourselves on the spiritual path, trying to probe that unfathomable depth of our own being? [She is simply doing the final tune up, and is ready to depart, leaving religion behind].
“Blessed by Freedom” is a very good example of the individual throwing off orthodoxy in favor of the temple of God being within.  Knocking off the head of Buddha is essentially the same as the beheading of John the Baptist.  When we look at the full moon, we have a perfect example of the New Testament story of Salome bringing the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter to King Herod.  The stages of the moon represent the dance of Salome or the scythe that cut off the head of John the Baptist.  The full moon is the silver platter and who has not seen the face in the moon?  Vita in this painting is casting off orthodoxy in favor of the inner voice.  Her back to mainstream Buddhism, basically, says it all.  This is the same with every human being.  No one can be himself or herself as long as they imitate others.  Imitating Christ is imitating one’s true spiritual nature.  Her hands in prayer and wheel as a halo tells us that the temple is within and that is where true worship mandates the attention of God: such piety is impossible for Him to ignore – the very aeons themselves dictates the role of deity.  [After decapitating the Buddha, she is now free to think with her own head.   A circle with a dot in the center was used by primitive tribes to indicate the return home.  In this case, she has returned to herself.]
“Lady Campagnolo” shows us the big ideas she has, represented by the mountains in the surrounding area, and her man need not know about them.  This is why the Jews waited below at the foot of the mountain for Moses.  They could not bear to entertain a spiritual thought.  Here the red garment is draped over the chair as if the man is there when it is convenient but she will be herself in blue.  The halos are not necessary to mention because woman is already spiritual. [Campagnolo is a name borrowed from the brand of Italian bicycle components. It is my sarcastic way to make a mockery of the sanctification halo, that has been used to attract women to the church. Just like a mouse trap!].
“Lady Shimano” is in the sanctums of her own thoughts: the holy of holies.  She has amidst that darkest of all places: in the privacy of her own mind fashioned secretly her bonsai tree: a purely personnel act manifested into the world, which can only be derived from the depths of one’s own being. [Shimano is the Compagnolo equivalent in the Japanese bicycle industry. Both women are sanctified by their own freedom]. Surely, this is heresy in the eyes of the powers that be.  What they do not know, cannot hurt them.  The background scenes are purely oriental, where a thousand nuances reside in the depths of what is unseen.  The waterfall ebbs continuously from the mountain regions from where the big ideas stream ad infinitum.
“Forever Gone” is very poignant in the serenity of her posture.  [The title addresses the disappearance of the bike. It is a comment on the lost freedom, after a country has been deprived of the symbols that characterize its philosophy. Only the emblematic ‘Liberty’ is a reminder of the times when America was well respected and idealized by many generations. The woman is simply a witness to the stupidity of man].   She is relaxed not looking off at what has and might have been.  No false liberty in a man’s world.   The towers are gone and the landscape of childhood is reclaimed, for nothing material lasts forever, no matter what that copper goddess has to say.  “Though objects are transitory, I have myself and that is plenty, considering what the world has to offer”.
“Peace on Earth” is an illusion promised by the title of this painting for she appears to be in stress as if waiting to jump out of her skin.  She is poised to sprint, at any moment, where she knows not.  She appears to be wringing her hands as if trying to make a decision and afraid of what she will choose, represented by the wheel at her feet, will be offensive to the established religions norms.  The craziness of man’s world is in the multitude of orthodoxies.  Which one is true?  Or which one do I trust? The separation wall at her back puts her on the wrong side of the divide.  Wasn’t it Jeremiah that said, ‘the people will cry for peace but there will be no peace’?  Yet, the wheel that is separated from the recognized orthodoxies (all descended historically from the Dome of the Rock in the background), represents her inner being and that is what she stresses over and in the end she will choose it: to be herself no matter what the cost.  And maybe it is in that final act of acceptance, where the most important decision of her life had been realized, that Vita gets his title for this very thoughtful and insightful painting. [It is a sad comment on the situation of a country most afflicted by religious fanaticism and blindness. A stone of the Wailing Wall, the Dome of the Rock, the Torah, the Khoran and the Bible, with the olive branch, are the elements relegating freedom (and peace) to a very small portion of the painting. She is in a squatting position, ‘peace on earth’, (phonetically intended)].
     Thus the cycle of 12-paintings is complete or is it?  From the uphill battle ‘Against the Wind’ to this final triumphant ‘Peace on Earth’ or revelation of acceptance, Vita has documented the incredible forces within the psyche that materialists, females as well as males, must come to terms with in their journey towards the wholeness that is spirituality: self-knowledge.  The cycle is not once spun and over with for life, it is a continuous ongoing process of making choices, and that process, as difficult as each decision is to make, is always the same.  Vita has given us a very special mandala to contemplate in our journey toward our individual goal.  This is what Vita has immortalized and by doing so, is repeating an age-old adage, using his very unique sand painting mandala, to communicate it, to a new audience: “know thyself”. *



  * A special point should be made here.  I found in the breakdown of the historical text of the sacred scriptures that the storyline had little to do with the actual spiritual message esoterically coded into its texts.  It is obvious that Vita understood a great deal of what he was communicating in his paintings.  But how much of what I have gleamed and outlined above is his or how much is from the Empyrean, only the artist can say. [W.J.Meegan]