The Serpentine Man, standing 8 feet tall and carved in the round out of a single piece of Ash hardwood, was completed in 2002 after almost a thousand hours of chiseling and hammering. I was born in the Chinese year of the snake, and often find snakes are a reoccurring theme in my artwork. This piece is explained best by the poem that accompanies it:
The Serpentine Man struggles to stand,
in his hands he hold the hollow head of a man.
His fears and his terrors,
his lies and his errs,
hide in the shadows of all that is grand.
The Serpentine Man – The man, represented by the phallic serpent form, is often viewed by people as a symbol of evil, temptation and/or sexual desire. However, just as a snake sheds its skin when it grows – it also represents rebirth, transformation, and healing. He stands as a guardian of the sacred within the self.
He struggles to stand – In a literal sense, if you look at the way he is positioned and try to imitate his stance, you will see it actually takes work to stand that way: hands over your head, knees bent, legs and feet together. It is not a very balanced pose and after a few minutes gets extremely difficult (just ask the model who posed it for me). In an abstract way, he is struggling to present himself – and his facade – the way he wants to be seen, while hiding what he does not want the public to see – his imperfections.
The hollow head of a man – The head held high above his own head – is his facade, his mask, his fake self. Here he attempts to appear to conform to society. This is his public face, boldly and somewhat cheekishly smiling for the world to see how great he is. It is hollow – no brain, nothing more than an empty shell that serves no purpose but to impress and distract the world around him and those that briefly glance in his direction. Much like the magician waves his hand to distract his audience from the hidden wire, the serpentine man holds this head high to draw attention and structure the focus.
Hidden in the shadows – The sculpture sits on a swivel and turns to reveal an evil, sharp toothed grin hiding behind his awkward stance. This is the opposite of the head he holds high. This is a representation of what he doesn’t want others to see or know about him. The many things he is partially ashamed of, or at least what society would frown upon. His vices, his selfish pleasures and hedonistic thoughts and desires.
You can view the full 360 degree view here: