Imaginalize a Painting

Exploring art through an imaginal lens—with the painting "The Vision of Saint Helena."

Imaginalize a Painting

I was eating a pizza looking at this image. The magnificent color of ochre on the dress. Is she sleeping? Is she dreaming? Is she having a vision? Or is she the vision of the painter?

A crimson silk shawl embraces her. A rough hewn beam. The ornate chair leg — almost symbolic.

What in nature lent its life to that ochre yellow? Soft and regal, like gathered sunlight.

A crown on her head.

Light streaming, bathing, illuminating her figure. Her mouth, pursed in reflection? Her hand, supporting her in sleep? An unconscious mudra? Is she having a vision? Was she painted by the painter? Or is she, a vision appearing to the painter?

Her name, Helen. Etymology, light. Helen in the light, experiencing a vision of light?

Did she live in the painter's time? How did she conceive herself? Her dress is aristocratic? Is that real? Symbolic?

How did she conceive of the future? Did she ever think of the year 2000? Did she think of us? Of what we would become? Was time linear to her? Or cyclical?

What would she have wished for us? Did her actions lay the seeds of peace whose fruit has borne in our time?

What to her was God?

How would she counsel us?

What was it to be a woman? Confining? Freeing?

Did she marry? Bear children?

How did she choose a life in God?

Was she canonized?

Was she real? Or an image that came to the painter?

Why did he choose her? How did he feel in making this image?

What did it mean to him? What was his life? Was he remembered? And by whom?

What did light mean to him? And God?

What gave him pleasure, as he walked hands trailing against the long grass of a field?

Who are we to him? Did he dream of us?

And why do I write this? Why today? Why this image? Receiving its light.

Image: The Vision of Saint Helena/Paolo Veronese