Natalie Holland’s “Eve” is a modern take on an ancient theme. Adam and Eve have appeared in a multitude of contexts in literature, music and art. Milton interpreted their story in his famous epic poem “Paradise Lost” in which Eve receives far more credit than she does in the Bible. Adam and Eve have debuted in novels from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” to “Sons and Lovers” by D.H Lawrence. A slew of painters, from Titian to Gaugin, have painted the first man and the first woman.
Many different cultures and traditions have a similar creation myth in which the first woman is blamed for the downfall of mankind. Ancient Greeks, for example, believed the Greek God Prometheus shaped man out of clay. Prometheus also stole fire from Zeus and gave it to the humans. In retaliation, Zeus created Pandora, the first woman, to whom he gave a box full of the world’s evil, which she was warned never to open. Eventually curiosity got the best of Pandora. She opened the box, releasing evil into the world.
In most cases, the first woman is blamed for the downfall of man. She is portrayed as weak-willed, manipulative, sinful, untrustworthy, lustful, unwise, and foolhardy. Not surprisingly, many women have sought to reinterpret the Biblical story, to soften and diffuse the blame that Eve has incurred.
With that in mind, you can see Holland’s painting as an attempt to show both sides of Eve, exploring her complexity and duality. In the painting, Eve sits below a tree branch. This tree suggests the Tree of Knowledge. Unlike the Biblical Tree of Knowledge, however, which is lush and laden, this tree has no fruit or leaves. Thus the tree in Holland’s painting suggests aspects of life and death.
The apples placed in the corner of the painting are another important classical element that Holland has reinterpreted. The apples have not fallen to the ground naturally (from the naked tree), but have been placed there by Eve. Because the apples are “staged” rather than “natural” they can be seen as a symbol of the natural and unnatural aspects of creation, and as a reflection on art and artifice in general. (Importantly Eve is not shown actually holding the apple, which suggests the possibility of Eve’s innocence in the matter.)
The most important dualities in the painting are found in the figure herself. Eve sits with ankles crossed demurely. She also wears white, which is a classic symbol of innocence and purity. On the other hand, there is boldness in her gaze and she is flashing a slight but suggestive smile. Her bare legs strongly express sensuality. Holland’s “Eve” is a modern Eve, with good and evil inherent—bold, sensual, and fierce but also demure and innocent.
Excerpt from Natalie Holland’s Artist Statement:
My exploration of pleasure, passion, pain, uncertainty, love, life, our own longing for fame and immortality, has motivated my quest for storytelling through figurative art. Sometimes light brings out darkness, sometimes darkness brings out light, but it’s my fascination with human interaction, particularly the difference between appearance and reality that animates my work.
Influenced by Western culture, society and the media, my inspiration is driven by a sometimes brutal, but tender approach of expression that brings my art to canvas. As I observe the world around me, my muse, which are humans, are always the center of my work. Each piece in itself is a self-contained story related to a greater concept, which enables limitless thoughts, possibilities and emotion. Although sometimes provocative, representational painting is my vessel for my love affair with life.
“Eve” by Natalie Holland is now on display at M Gallery of Fine Art SE, 11 Broad Street, Charleston, SC 29401. To view this painting online visit http://www.mgalleryoffineart.com. To inquire about this painting call 843.727.4500 or email email@example.com