Hands, Eyes, Skulls
I went to see the American Folk Art Museum exhibit of Masonic and Odd Fellows art, “Mystery and Benevolence”, this weekend. Lots of my favorites! Hands, eyes, skulls.
Both the Freemasons and the Odd Fellows were (and are) secret fraternal organizations, dedicated to fellowship and the development of ethics and good moral character. As one article about the exhibit pointed out, you can look up symbolic meanings online for, say, hands and hearts, but the true and complete meanings still remain a mystery except to the initiated.
Is the mystery part of the beauty? I loved this hand and hearts hooked rug.
The all-seeing eye is another prominent symbol. It is often shown with chains. “F L T” stands for friendship, love and truth.
Eyes are shown with the sun’s rays radiating. The sun itself is represented as well.
One of the purposes of these organizations was the contemplation of mortality. This would hopefully lead to better choices in life. Thus, the skeletons and skulls.
I managed to photograph this wonderfully eerie skull and crossbones right over my reflection.
Animals associated with these organizations include snakes, owls, bees, and double-headed eagles.
The Ark of the Covenant and Solomon’s Temple are also have meaning.
An intricate papercutting includes many of the mysterious symbols.
This painting shows why these organizations are often associated with the occult. The secret rites and rituals and cryptic symbols invite speculation. But they are also wonderful to contemplate simply as works of art.
This is a great show. It’s open through May 8.