I love snakes — real snakes, snake art, snake myths, symbols, metaphors — all snakes. In collecting snake art and stories about snakes, I find it interesting that on the eastern side of the world, snakes symbolize health, regeneration and the circle of life, while on the western side of the world, they stand for evil, harm, meanness, and sneakiness. So, if all the world’s deadliest snakes live in the Eastern Hemisphere and they symbolize goodness, but the majority of snakes of the Western Hemisphere are not venomous but symbolize bad things, how does this make any sense?
When I was a little girl, I heard the Adam and Eve story at church. On the way home, I asked my mom, “Why did the preacher say that sin was the fault of women and snakes?” I did not understand, and the finger pointing made me mad. I made up my mind then that I was going to find the good snake stories to counter the bad. I do love the Adam and Eve story, but not so much as a lesson on who committed the first sin. I believe the most important point of the story is the charge on humankind to tend the Garden and to be good stewards of the Creation — but not in a “let them have dominion of all living things” kind of way, and not in a “tame the Earth” sort of way. I think the story makes clear the human flaw to shift blame to others instead of taking responsibility for our wrongs. Why do we continue to justify our dominion over the Earth by using this story? We’ve been on a trajectory of doom and gloom on the Earth since the first bite of the apple from the Tree of Knowledge. We know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, and with the wisdom of science, we know we have harmed the Earth, and we continue to do so with hubris. We are all part of the Earth and its ecosystems, and we should take the responsibility seriously to be good stewards. It is our responsibility to work towards keeping balance in the Garden of Eden. We’ve thrown the Earth out of whack, and we should strive to restore, conserve, and preserve the Creation. Okay, a little preachy, but there it is.
Themes in my textile art reflect these beliefs of mine. In my Way of the Dodo series, Adam and Eve eat apples as the Earth dies. Adam and Eve are lazy and unresponsive to the chopped down forests, toxic air, dirty water, and global climate change. They spew poisons onto the Earth to grow their monoculture Eden, and they clear the pines and all natural features and functions of the land to call their new place of worship, Church of the Thousand Pines.
Other pieces with snakes show the snake as the symbol of health. A dissected ouroboros circles the Earth. A scary snake wrangler threatens an eastern diamondback during a rattlesnake rodeo. My favorite is the fourteen-feet long snake watching over my sewing shack.