Hands, Eyes, Skulls

clasped hands s

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.

hands comp

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.

hands rug s

Is the mystery part of the beauty?  I loved this hand and hearts hooked rug.

eye comp 1

The all-seeing eye is another prominent symbol.  It is often shown with chains.  “F L T” stands for friendship, love and truth.

eye and sun comp

Eyes are shown with the sun’s rays radiating.  The sun itself is represented as well.

fidelity s

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.

skull with reflection s

I managed to photograph this wonderfully eerie skull and crossbones right over my reflection.

animals comp

Animals associated with these organizations include snakes, owls, bees, and double-headed eagles.

ark s

The Ark of the Covenant and Solomon’s Temple are also have meaning.

papercutting comp

An intricate papercutting includes many of the mysterious symbols.

symbols painting s

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.

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About memadtwo

For more madness, follow me on Instagram @h_zimel

35 responses to “Hands, Eyes, Skulls”

  1. Laura (Createarteveryday) says :

    I’m thinking now of your “talk to the hand” post! So many beautiful abstracts I’m seeing coming from this. Looks like a wonderful time!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. merrildsmith says :

    It looks like a fascinating exhibit. Thanks for sharing. I remember my grandfather made a metal image of two hands shaking, similar to your top photograph. It was copied from something, but there were no Masonic eyes. I think it said “Shalom.” It fascinated me as a child.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash) says :

    This was a wonderful tour!! I can’t attend I person so thanks for the visit!! This was so cool!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Teresa Robeson says :

    I always think of those secret fraternities as stuff of fiction/movies, LOL! There are so really neat art associated with them. Like Charlie, I’m also grateful for this tour since I can’t be there myself! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lynz Real Cooking says :

    Wow mysterious and cool post! So many things to see!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sharon Mann says :

    Thanks for sharing your museum tour. I do love the symbolism. Very exotic and mysterious. My grandfather was a Mason and my mom, as a child, was in the Eastern Star for the kids. She never revealed any of the secrets. 🐸

    Liked by 1 person

  7. memadtwo says :

    You know I’m going to try to draw one of these…the question is, which one? Great post.

    Like

  8. Claudia McGill says :

    We have a very elaborate Masonic Temple in Center City Philadelphia which I have toured. And it is amazing. You learn no secrets, but you sure see a lot – it’s visually very rich.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. hannalietaute says :

    I love the photo where you captured the skull and crossbones over your reflection! Wonderful xx

    Liked by 1 person

  10. weisserwatercolours says :

    … the Masonic Order is prominently/interestingly featured in Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’. Of all you’ve given us here, I find the papercutting absolutely mindblowing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • memadtwo says :

      It’s a pretty amazing piece…the first thing I was drawn to when I entered the exhibit.
      I read “War and Peace” so long ago, I don’t remember that aspect. Perhaps it’s time to revisit it anyway. (Add it to the pile of books!)

      Liked by 1 person

  11. thegraysage8 says :

    There is beauty in the meanings of each symbols indeed

    Liked by 1 person

  12. thegraysage8 says :

    As an OddFellow these works of art are exquisite and is privilege to see. Thanks for the great shots and words of compliment.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. thegraysage8 says :

    To an Odd Fellow, these symbols are all meaningful and special. They are all beautiful expressions of the philosophy of FLT.

    Liked by 1 person

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