Three Choices with Eros by Beth West (8.5 x 11 print)
“Three Choices with Eros”
Artist Writeup by Beth West
My father, Christopher West, has spoken often in his courses and books about the three choices we have when it comes to dealing with eros, which is the cry of humanity for eternal fulfillment. This yearning is something we all feel, and it is incredibly powerful. There are three things we can do with this desire: (1) be a stoic, who tries to repress it and pretend it’s not there; (2) be an addict, who tries to fill the void with finite pleasure which never satisfies; or (3) be an aspiring mystic who learns to open that longing for infinite love to infinite love in total trust.
The concept for this piece came to me quickly when I consider how these three approaches could be represented visually. However, it took much trial and many drafts to make it a reality. In my piece, eros is symbolically represented as a powerful explosion coming forth from the chest. I chose this visual because it shows that eros is powerful and beautiful, and that it originates from the center of one’s being. After establishing the visual of eros, I used body language to convey the three different approaches.
When considering the piece as a whole, notice the perspective from which we see each of the figures. The stoic is facing front, the addict is facing halfway to the side, and the mystic is in profile. This is intended to create a visual progression from one figure to the other. It is the journey from repression, to expression, to surrender. The piece could be interpreted to be the spiritual journey of one particular person, or, the figures could be interpreted as a representation of humanity as a whole. I leave that up to the viewer.
The stoic stands out from the other two figures, because of how compact his posture is. Both the addict and the mystic express their longing; they are reaching outward. The stoic is the only one who’s heart is not expanding.His arms are crossed over his chest, creating an X shape. He is allowing nothing into, and nothing out of his heart. At first, I considered making the stoic devoid of expression, to express the death and dryness that results from therepression of desire. However, I decided that it was more important to express a different truth. Though the stoic may seem peaceful and composed on the outside, it takes all of his internal strength to keep from exploding. That tension is what I chose to express. Notice also that despite his effort, the fire within is seeping out through the cracks. Eros cannot be contained for long!
The addict is the only figure whose eyes are open. He is the most active of the three. Like the mystic, he feels the desire in his heart, but notice his orientation. His fire is facing down. Indeed, his whole chest is caved inward and directed downward. He is also placed at the bottom of the page. This is all meant to communicate to the viewer that he is not correctly directing his desire. Notice the action of his hands. One hand is held in a fist near his chest, selfishly trying to hold onto something. The other hand is desperately reaching for something more, something just out of reach. He is angry and unsatisfied.
The aspiring mystic was the easiest to design. I knew immediately what posture I wanted for him; curvedbackwards, open hands, and radically open chest. If you have been in this posture before then you know exactly why I chose it; (and if you have not, you should give it a try!) It is a physical prayer. His chest is facing upwards, his energy is shooting toward the heavens. He is the only figure whose chest is not obstructed, and so he is completely vulnerable. Everything is flowing out, and he is completely open to let the infinite in. Of all three figures, the aspiringmystic is taking the greatest risk. He is not attempting to restrain or medicate the fire in any way. However, he is the only one whose face is peaceful. Though it may be counterintuitive, it is true surrender, and not control, which leads to peace.
Eros is described by St. John Paul II as the upward impulse of the human spirit towards what is true, good, and beautiful. He also said that the purpose of art is to make the world of the spirit perceptible. It is my hope that expressing humanity's relationship to eros in this way shines new light on your own heart, and allows you to internalize this concept in deeper ways. Creating this piece was a prayerful journey for me. It helped me understandwhat these approaches to eros feel like visually and viscerally, not just verbally and conceptually. This richer understanding is what I hope to communicate to others through my art. With it, we can be better equipped to detect these attitudes in ourselves as we continue on the spiritual journey.