Giacometti 5: Fear of Death

Homage to Giacometti  Part 5
Regarding His Fear of Death
Photographs Inspired by or Related to the Paintings,  
Drawings & Sculptures of Alberto Giacometti

1.  Introduction : "Portraits" Heads Faces
2.  Line-Drawing Photograph Portraits
3.  Figures & Triadic Visual Poems 
4.  Landscapes, Still Lifes, Place and Presence
5.  Regarding Giacometti's Fear of Death  
6.  Vision, Re-vision and "Recurrence of Creation"
7.  New Work, Commentaries, Epilogue

Introduction: Life & Death
This project begins with a brief chronology of death-related events in the life of Giacometti.  He was fearful of death, and I believe fear is a palpable presence in many of his art works.  When we learn of his experiences related to death, however, perhaps we will have gained enough of a deeper understanding of both the man and his work to appreciate even more fully what he accomplished in his life.  The remarkable thing about Giacometti's late paintings, for me, is that the presence of death and fear, though openly expressed, is at the same time, somehow, transcended.  This transcendence is I believe due to the transformative power inherent in the visual symbol, an image alive with grace, the creative power of the universe, which conjoins corresponding opposing (inner and outer) forces into a visual embodiment of Unitary Reality.

Where it has seemed appropriate I have interjected images of Giacometti's works which appear to relate to the experiences outlined in the texts; and in a few instances I have also included my own photographs, images which relate either to the text or to Giacometti's work.  I have then presented a collection of five late paintings by Giacometti which to me seems relevant to our theme, and a brief written commentary on the images.

The second part of the project includes a collection of my photographs and a chronology of events in my life that relate to the themes of fear and death.  Commentaries have been interwoven where it seemed useful.


Death is a subject (and a word) that our culture shies away from, as if to deny its existence will somehow make life easier . . . or at least less uncomfortable or frightening.  Nonetheless Death has been a recurring presence in my life and not surprisingly it is a presence in my photography.  Over the years I have devoted several projects to the visual and textual contemplation of death, and as I study Giacometti's life and works, I have found meaningful correspondences between his experiences and my own, some of his art works and my own.  In this project, as in the other four parts of my Homage to Giacometti, I have tried to illuminate these similarities, and I hope without being too overbearing about it.

My perception and understanding in regards to death began to shift radically in 1987 after I met Gurumayi Chidvilasananda and began practicing Siddha Yoga.  I have come to appreciate and respect death in a whole new light as a result of her teachings, my study of the yogic scriptures, and the experiences I've had through the grace of the practices.  Gurumayi's meditation Master, Baba Muktananda has written quite extensively about death; indeed, he experienced his own death in meditation and has written about it in his autobiography!  I will conclude the project with an Afterword which contains excerpts from a selection of his writings.

Death, ever present in our lives (whether we acknowledge or not) is one of life's great teachers.  It's presence helps us live a fuller, more conscious, intentional life.  As I continue to be come aware and acknowledge the significance of death in my life--and my fear of it--and as I continue my contemplations of its presence in my life through yoga and photography, I feel I am more fully sympathetic and receptive to Giacometti's work.  As I continue to learn how to step back a little and see death from a more open, informed and accepting perspective I believe that I will gradually make my peace with death.  This project is part of my effort to move forward toward fulfilling that goal.

A Brief Chronology of Death-Related Events 
in the life of Giacometti

1901: Alberto Giacometti was born in Borgonovo, an Italian-speaking village in Switzerland, on October 10, 1901.  He was the first of four children.  His mother was from Stampa; her name was Annetta Stampa.  She was a strong minded and vocal woman.  His father, Giovanni Giacometti, was also from the Stampa area.  Giovanni was a painter who became quite popular in Switzerland in his time.  The family moved to Stampa in 1904 and later established a northern summer home in nearby Maloja.  Alberto loved to return often to his childhood landscapes to paint them in the 1950's.  In 1949 he would marry a woman from a suburb of Geneva named Annette Arm.

1906-08: The Gold Stone & The Black Stone
Giacometti wrote often of his childhood experiences, and particularly of a Golden stone that his father directed him to when he was fiver or six years of age.  The stone was connected to a cave-like (or womb-like) pair of spaces in the earth.  The stone was just outside of the village; Alberto could see it in the distance from his house.  He and several of his young friends made the stone and its caves into a secret ritual-like hiding place, which to the young Alberto was warm and comforting.  In this space, he wrote, all my wishes were granted.  Yves Bonnefoy interprets Giacometti's experience in terms of its "Oedipal significance."  "Tall, monolithic, phallic, in fact, and yet warm and luminous, rooted in the most natural place between the village and the deep woods which it holds at bay."

Giacometti also wrote of a childhood fantasy in which he would one day dig a whole in the snow just big enough to creep into and staying almost buried in it.  On the surface there would be nothing to see but a round opening as small as possible . . .    I imagined it would be a very dark and warm place where I would feel extremely happy.  (Interestingly, when Giacometti died, his friends were given a last glimpse of his face before the burial through a small aperture--a round opening--near the upper end of the coffin.)

Related to the childhood story of the Golden stone is another stone, a Black one which Giacometti found in his wanderings just out of site beyond the Golden one.  The black stone was "huge" and in the form of a narrow pointed pyramid.  It made him feel strangely uncomfortable.  He wrote:  The stone immediately struck me as being human, hostile and threatening.  It threatened everything: us, our games and our cave.  I could not tolerate its existence and I promptly decided that since I could not make it disappear I had to ignore it, forget it and speak of it to no one.  The young Giacometti did garner up the courage to touch it once:  I walked around it trembling at the thought that I'd find an entrance.  There was no cave.  That made the stone even more unbearable. . .  

1913: Giacometti, twelve years of age, makes a copy drawing of Durer's engraving The Knight, Death, and the Devil, dated 1513.   (Note the skull included in the lower left corner of the composition.)  Giacometti was to make several drawings and paintings of skulls.  See the drawing below dated 1923.

1  Durer,  The Knight, Death, and the Devil  1513  Engraving

2  Skull  1923  pencil

3  Split skull face, Negative-Positive  from 
Portraits for the Departing Landscape 2007-12


1920: Giacometti travels in Italy with his father in to see the Venice Biennial.   While there he falls in love with the paintings of Tintoretto.  Then, soon after, on a return trip to Italy, he and his father discovered Giotto, in the Arena Chapel in Padua.  Giacometti writes: I received a violent blow in the middle of the chest in front of Giotto.  I was disoriented and lost, immediately I felt a tremendous sorrow and a huge sadness.  

A Terrifying Vision 
But that same evening, he writes that he had experienced a terrifying vision of three girls who were walking in front of him.  They seemed huge to me, beyond all measuring, and all their whole being and their movements were charged with appalling violence.  I gazed at them as if hallucinating, overcome by a sensation of terror.  Reality seemed rent apart.  

He relates that this vision makes the paintings of Tintoretto and the Giotto small and weak in comparison.  But he realizes: what I loved so much in Tintoretto was like a very pale reflection of this vision [of the girls] and I understood why I was determined not to loose him.

In the autumn of 1920 Giacomtti returns yet again to Italy and stays there until the following summer.  While in Florence he has another vision, similar to the one he had in Padua, this time in reaction to an Egyptian bust, the first head which seemed to me to resemble the model.  He then discovers the Cimabue painting of St. Francis in Assisi, and the mosaics of Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian in Rome.  Giacometti writes of these experiences as being related to his terror-stricken hallucinatory vision of the Paduan girls: All these works appeared to me a little like duplicates recreated from the three young Paduan girls.      

During his nine month stay in Italy the young artist struggles with his painting and sculpture.  Nothing works for him, and thus begins a recurring event in his creative process that was to haunt him to the very end of his life.  He writes of several heads he was trying to sculpt: I was unable to complete it, I lost myself, I lost everything, the model's head before me was becoming like a cloud, vague and unlimited.  I ended up destroying them at the end of my stay.  

1921: At the beginning of the summer he travels yet again to Italy, and on the train he meets a mysterious man, an old Dutchman named Peter van Meurs, who would later contact Giacometti with an invitation to become his travel companion.  Giacometti, hungry for adventure and wanting to avoid wasting time in school,  which he resented, he was finally given permission by his parents, reluctantly, to embark on the adventure.  He was only 19, years of age.  However, as fate would have it, the adventure was cut short by the unexpected death of the old Dutchman.
The Death of van Meurs
The following story is told by James Lord in his excellent book: Giacometti, A Biography:

Van Meurs was not handsome.  He had thick fleshy features . . . If he was a homosexual there is no reason to assume he was an active or even conscious one. . . . The travelers set  out on September 3, 1921 . . .  they went to the Grand Hotel ds Alpes, built on the ruins of an ancient monastery.  

The following day was Sunday.  Rain was falling on the mountainsides, on the forest, and on the fields around the hotel.  It was cold.  Van Meurs awoke unwell and in sever pain.  He suffered from kidney stones . . . The hotel luckily had a doctor attached to the staff.  He was called, examined van Meurs, and gave him an injection to ease the pain.

Alberto remained by the bedside of the elderly Dutchman.  Having brought with him a copy of Flaubert's Bouvard et Pecuchet, he began to read the introductory essay by Guy de Maupassant.  In it there is a passage which may have seemed striking to the impressionable young artist as he sat by the bed of this sick man whom he barley knew.

Speaking of Flaubert, Maupassant says: 

"Those people who are altogether happy, strong and healthy: are they adequately prepared to understand, to penetrate, and to express this life we live, so tormented, so short?  Are they made, the exuberant and outgoing, for the discovery of all those afflictions and all those sufferings which beset us, for the knowledge that death strikes without surcease, every day and everywhere, ferocious, blind, fatal?  So it is possible, it is probable, that the first seizure of epilepsy made a deep mark of melancholy and fear upon the mind of this robust youth.  It is probable that thereafter a kind of apprehension toward life remained with him, a manner somewhat more somber of considering things, a suspicion of outward events, a mistrust of apparent happiness."

Outside the window, rain continued to fall . . . but [van Meurs] showed no sign of improving.  On the contrary.  His cheeks had become sunken, and he was barely breathing through his open mouth.

4  Head on a Rod  1947, painted plaster  18" high
(click on images to enlarge)

5  The Nose  1949, bronze 

Alberto took paper and pencil and began to draw the sick man "to see him more clearly, to try to grasp and hold the sight before his eyes, to understand it, to make something permanent of the experience of the moment."  He drew the sunken cheeks, the open mouth, and the fleshy nose which even as he watched seemed bizarrely to be growing longer and longer.  Then it suddenly occurred to him that van Meurs was going to die.  All alone in that remote hotel, with rain pouring on the rocky mountaintops outside, Alberto was seized by blind fear.  

Toward the end of the afternoon, the doctor returned  and examined the sick man again.  Taking Alberto aside, he said, "Its finished.  The heart's failing.  Tonight he'll be dead."

Nightfall came.  Hours passed.  Peter van Meurs died.

In that instant everything changed for Alberto Giacometti forever.  He said so, and never ceased saying so.  The subsequent testimony of his lifetime showed that it was the truth.  Till then he had had no idea, no inkling of what death was.  He had never seen it.  He had thought of life as possessing a force, a persistence, a permanence of its own, and of death as a fateful occurrence which might somehow enhance the solemnity, and even the value, of life.  Now he had seen death.  It had been present for an instant before his eyes with a power which reduced life to nothingness.  He had witnessed the transition from being to non-being.  Where there had formerly been a man, now there remained only refuse.  What had once seemed valuable and solemn was now visibly absurd and trivial.  He had seen that life is frail, uncertain, transitory.

In that instant , everything seemed as vulnerable as van Meurs.  Everything was threatened in the essence of its being.  From the most infinitesimal speck of matter to the great galaxies and the whole universe itself, everything was precious, perishable.  Human survival above all appeared haphazard and preposterous.       

James Lord then quotes Giacometti's own words: . . . "For me it was an abominable trap. In a few hours van Meurs had become an object, nothing.  Then death became possible at every moment for me, for everyone.  It was like a warning.  So much had come about by chance: the meeting, the train, the advertisement [placed by van Meurs in the newspaper].  As if everything had been prepared to make me witness this wretched end.  My whole life certainly shifted in one stroke on that day.  Everything became fragile for me." 

Alberto did not rest well that night.  He did not dare go to sleep for fear he might never wake.  He was so afraid of the dark, as if the extinction of light were the extinction of life, as if the loss of sight were the loss of everything.  All night, he kept the light burning. [and every night of his life thereafter].  He shook himself repeatedly to try to stay awake. . .  Then suddenly it seemed to him in his half-sleep that his mouth was hanging open like the mouth of the dying man, and he started awake in terror.

After reading this account of van Meurs' death I could not help but see in Giacometti's 1955 drawing, below, entitled Mountain at Stampa, van Meurs on his deathbed, mouth open, gasping for his last breath.  I watched my mother pass away in the hospital, her mouth open, gasping for breath, her eyes open but glazed over, as if her consciousness had left the body before the last breath.

6  Giacometti,  Mountain at Stampa, 1955  pencil 


1922: Giacometti goes to Paris to study art.  He encounters similar visionary experiences in which he could not grasp the whole of a figure before him.

1925: Giacometti becomes active within the popular Surrealist Movement in Paris.

1927: Giacometti moves into small studio at 46 rue Hippolyte-Maindron, where he spent the rest of his life.  At first it was too small for him to sleep there; he stayed in a cheap nearby hotel.  But he wrote, later . . . the more I stayed there, the more it got bigger.

1929: Giacometti becomes represented by one of the most important avant-garde art dealers in Paris, Pierre Loeb.

1933: The Death of Giacometti's Father
Giacometti's father, Giovanni, dies in 1933.  It was too much for Alberto to bear.  He became feverish and had to go to bed.  He remained bed-ridden for five days.  The eldest of the four children in the family, surprisingly he refused to be part of the planning of the funeral.  For undisclosed reasons, he did not attend his father's funeral.

1934: Giacometti breaks ties with Surrealism.  He claimed that all the work he had done within the Surrealist movement had been nothing but masturbation.  He said for the moment he had no other aim than to try and produce a human head.  


1938:  The Automobile Accident:  one night at the place des Pyramides Giacometti was knocked down by a car that had run off the street.  It was an important life-transforming event for Giacometti.  He claimed it was preordained.  Here is one part of the full account James Lord gives in his biography Giacometti.

Suddenly an automobile came speeding along the rue de Rivoli, swerved toward him, careened onto the narrow width of sidewalk and grazed him.  He fell.  The car hurtled onward. There was a shattering crash.  Alberto lay on the the pavement.  He felt calm, peaceful, looking at the scene . . . his right foot had a peculiar shape, his shoe lying at a distance.  He didn't know what had happened.  
The driver of the car, extricated from the wreck, turned out to be a woman, an American.  Alberto though she seemed half-crazy.  In fact, she was drunk.  . . .  [He and the woman were taken  in a van to a hospital.]  She asked him for a cigarette.  . . . Alberto was taken aback and did not want to comply and concluded that the woman must be a prostitute.  At the same time he felt strongly attracted to her, as if he were falling in love.  It was a bizarre moment, fraught with imponderable feelings and meanings.

While in the hospital Giacometti became fascinated by a cart in which nurses dressed in white would transport bottles of medicines that made tinkling sounds.  It had two large wheels at the back, and two small wheels at the front.  He made several drawings of it.  Twelve years later his fascination for the cart was given artistic visual form as the large sculpture entitled The Chariot which I wrote about in part two of this project.  The accident left Giacometti with a slight limp, which he enjoyed having.  He walked with a cane long after it was necessary and he often told his story of the accident even years later, adding that he had been glad when he realized that he would remain permanently lame.


1939:  Giacometti begins working on miniature figurines.  The way the figures continue to get smaller and smaller invokes in his his "terror" of death, of shrinking into nothing.  As he carved and carved the little plaster figures would eventually dissolve in his hands, leaving only a little mound of plaster dust.


1940, June 13:  Fleeing Paris.
Giacometti, his brother Diego and Diego's girlfriend, Nelly flee Paris during the German invasion of Paris.  This experience makes a lasting impression on Giacometti.  Here is James Lord's account of the horrors of war which Giacometti experienced:

It was a fine day.  An occasional burst of antiaircraft fire exploded in the sky as planes droned overhead.  [Diego, Nelly and Giacometti, headed south on their bicycles.]  Though the main swarm of refugees was ahead of them, the roads were crowded and they could not go fast.  The first night, they slept in the woods near Longjumeau, only thirteen miles from Paris.

In the morning, while enemy troops were occupying the captial, they set out in the direction of Etampes.  Above them passed German planes, preparing to attack the town.  Alberto, Diego, and Nelly arrived just as the attack ended.  Buildings were in ruins, burning.  A human arm, severed at the shoulder, lay in the road, and they realized it must have come from a woman's body because a bracelet of green stones still circled the wrist.

7  The Hand,   1947    bronze

Farther on, they came to a large shallow crater where a bomb had recently fallen; around it lay several bodies, torn limbs, and the severed head of a bearded man.  The street was running with blood.  People were screaming.  A bus had exploded and the passengers, most of them children, were burning alive.  There was nothing to do but keep on pedaling.

8  The Scream, from Portraits for the Departing Landscape 2007-12

Beyond Etampes, the highway was fearfully crowded.  In addition to fleeing citizens, there were retreating units of the French army, tanks, trucks, command cars.  Toward mid-afternoon there was a thunderstorm.  German planes came over and strafed the road with machine-gun fire.  The refugees rushed for the ditch, Alberto was terrified as bullets poured through the foliage of a tree overhead.  When the raid was over, they had to get up and move on, leaving behind the dead.  Later there were more planes.  Again everybody rushed for the ditches.  The sun had come out, though the sky was still half filled with clouds and in the distance occasional rumbles of thunder were audible.  Beneath a nearby tree, French soldiers had set up a machine gun and were firing at the planes.  As Alberto lay there in the ditch, with other refugees crowed around him, he starred up at the sky and suddenly to his great surprise he realized that he was no longer afraid.  It was in part the thrilling beauty of the June day, in part the presence of the other people, which gave him heart.  He thought that if anyone was to be killed he was willing that it should be he instead of one of the others. . .   Always preoccupied by death, he was not afraid of dying.  That was as close as he ever came to death by violence. 

9  Pompeii figure, from Portraits for the Departing Landscape 2007-12

[A few days later, Alberto, Diego and Nelly decide to return to Paris].  The roadsides were littered with abandoned cars and abandoned corpses, heaps of abandoned luggage, garbage, wreckage, the bloated carcasses of dead horses.  The stench was monstrous.  The roads themselves were crowded with columns of German tanks and troops, advancing unopposed or guarding woebegone French prisoners.  The first night Alberto, Diego and Nelly spent in a field not far from the road, but the smell of decomposing corpses was so oppressive that they could not sleep.  They arrived in Paris on Saturday, June 22, [1940] the same day that the armistice between France and Germany was signed, and found safe everything they had left behind. 


1942:  Giacometti leaves occupied Paris on December 31, 1941 and lives in Geneva, where his mother lived at the time.  He stays in a hotel and continues working in plaster with the tiny figurines.

1943:  He meets his future wife, Annette Arm who was living with her parents in the suburbs of Geneva.

1945:  In September Giacometti returns to Paris with all his sculptures contained within one large matchbox or a small cardboard suitcase.  At the end of the year he has the a visionary Epiphany (see part 1 of this project) which changes his vision of the world and the course his creative process.


1946 Essay: "The Dream, the Sphinx and the Death of T."
Giacometti wrote an important essay for the December issue of the Surrealist magazine Labyrinth.  It is entitled "The Dream, the Sphinx and the Death of T." and it deals quite directly with his fears of death.

Giacometti begins his essay with the telling of a dream that involved the killing of an enormous, furry brown spider that was hanging from a thread at the foot of his bed.  This dream awoke him into another dream with a far more monstrous spider, yellow in color.  The second dream was related to yellow pus Giacometti discovered after his very last visit at the Sphinx, a well know brothel in Montparnasse, which was about to be permanently closed down.  Giacometti loved the Sphinx and had attended it frequently.  Giacometti, who was terrified of women--especially an intimate relationship with a woman--said that a prostitute standing before him naked at the Sphinx was not a woman; she was a "Goddess."

Excerpts from "The Death of T."
Giacometti then writes about the death of Tonio Pototsching, the manager of Giacometti's studio-apartment.  "T." had been very sick with cancer of the liver.  He wasted away before Giacometti's eyes as he lay in an adjacent room across the hall from Giacometti's bedroom.

Giacometti's essay about T.'s death shows what a brilliant thinker and writer he was.  Here are a few excerpts about T.'s death published in his essay "The Dream, the Sphinx and the Death of T."

I saw T. dead, with his skeletally thin limbs stretched out, opened up and abandoned far from the body, with his enormous, swollen belly, his head thrown back and his mouth open.  Never had a corpse seemed so meaningless to me . . .   I looked at the head, which had become an object, an insignificant, measurable, little box.  Just at that moment, a fly crawled up to the mouth's black hole and slowly disappeared into it.  

I helped get T. dressed as best I could, as if he were going to some glittering occasion, a party perhaps . . .  Going back in my bedroom the following night, I noticed that by some odd chance no light was on.  Annette [Giacometti's wife] was sunk into the bed, asleep.  The corpse was still in the bedroom next door.  I disliked the lack of light and as I was about to go naked down the dark corridor leading to the bathroom which went past the dead man's bedroom I was filled with terror and, although I didn't believe it, I had the vague impression that T. was everywhere, everywhere except in that miserable corpse on the bed, that corpse which had seemed so meaningless to me.  T was beyond all bounds, and terrified of feeling an icy hand touch me on the arm, I made a huge effort to go down the corridor, then came back to bed and with my oyes open I talked to Annette until dawn.

10  Head and Nude  1965,  oil

During that period I had begun to see heads in the void, in the space that surrounded them. The first time I saw a head I was looking at freeze, become fixed in that single instant forever, I trembled with terror as never before in my life, and a cold sweat rand down my back.  This was no longer a living head, but an object which I looked at as I would look at any other object; yet not quite, not like any other object, differently, like something that was dead and alive at the same time.  I let out a cry of terror as if I had just crossed over a threshold, as if I had gone into a world that nobody had seen before.  All the living were dead, and this vision came back often, in the metro, in the street, in restaurants or with friends. . .  And at the same time as people, objects underwent a transformation: tables, chairs, cloths, streets, even trees and landscapes.  ~  When I woke up that morning I saw my towel in a stillness that nobody had ever experienced before, as if suspended in a terrifying silence.  It no longer had any connection [with the other objects in the room] . . .  these objects were separated by immeasurable chasms of emptiness.  I looked at my room in terror . . .    Published and translated by Michale Peppiatt in his book Alberto Giacometti In Postwar Paris


1949:  Giacometti marries Annette Arm at a local town hall in Paris.

1950's  Giacometti's career skyrockets with major exhibitions and awards.

1962:  He discovers he has cancer of the stomach.

1963:  He undergoes major surgery on his stomach. He stays in hotel rooms to recover, and makes luminous drawings of the hotel furniture.  Giacometti told a writer he could spend the rest of his life simply drawing two chairs and a table.  It would be necessary, therefore, to sacrifice both paining and sculpture, and the head and everything, and to reduce oneself to staying in a room, in front of the same table, the same tablecloth and the same chair, and to do only that.  And I know already that the more I would try, the more it would become difficult.  So I would reduce my life to almost nothing.

11  Interior at Stampa (chair)  1960,  pencil

1964: Death of Giacometti's mother, Annetta Giacometti.

1965:  December 5, Giacometti leaves Paris to go back home, to be with close friends and family while in the hospital at Chur for his annual check up.  He had had a seizure, and suffered with chronic bronchitis and an enlarged heart.  He seemed to know that he was dying.  Though he feared his ailment was from cancer, James Lord writes that Giacometti was not alarmed at the prospect of being in the hospital.  Giacometti said. "Finally I'll be abel to get a few days of rest."

Apparently Giacometti gave up his willingness to cooperate with the doctors; he seemed unwilling to continue to live.  Late in the afternoon of January 10, 1966 he told his doctor "Soon again I'll see my mother."  James Lord writes: To be united with her in the sight of eternity was his dying wish.

1966:  Giacometti dies in hospital on January 11 after falling into a coma.  He seemed at that time ready to die.  ~  He was buried in the small cemetery at Borgonovo, near the tombs of his father and mother.  Before the burial his friends were given a last glimpse of him through a small aperture near the upper end of the coffin which was displayed in Giovanni's studio.


A Collection of late

12  Large Nude Standing    1958    oil 

13  Annette Seated  1954,  oil

14   Head of Man (Diego)  1965    oil 

15   Grey Figure  1957    oil 

16  The Artist's Mother, Annetta  1958     oil 

Commentary on the paintings 
The fear of dissolving into nothing was a life-long issue for Giacometti, as can be seen, I believe, in many of his later paintings.  Maybe early in his career this issue was part of the conceptual Surrealist and Existentialist agenda that he felt compelled to embrace and publicly extol, however, in the later period of his life--after he returned to Paris after the war, and after his 1945 epiphany--he had for the most part grown beyond that ideology.  The works I have selected above are certainly not about nothing.  

It is however unfair to interpret what works of art might mean for the one who has created them.  And despite the fact that Giacometti was an excellent writer, I do not fully trust what he or any artist says about their work.  Artists are often the last to know what their work is really about.  Also, I am certain that we should never depend on what artists say as a way of drawing conclusions about a work's meaning.  Each viewer must take personal responsibility for that. True introspection is the only way to come to meaning, for meaning unfolds from within one's own inner world.  I am committed to the idea that the best works of art are those that function for us me as living symbols.  Whenever we look deeply into any thing, we finally, necessarily, must come face to face with our own inner Self.  And that's what symbolic images do.  The bring us into a conscious experience of the wholeness, the Unitary Reality, the inner Self that lies hidden behind the outer play of appearances.

In all of the images above, the human figure is static, a mere skeletal presence.  The first two paintings show a figure that appears to be captive inside a casket-like framed space.  There is no question that death is a presence in most or all of these five works.  Nonetheless all of the figures are surrounded by tremendously vital, moving, transforming energies.  One can see and feel life churning and undulating throughout every inch of the pictorial space.  Each figure seems to be either emitting, surrounded by, or perhaps being absorbed by an aura-like living presence.  In all five images there is a kind of interactive dance of opposing forces: still and active, creation and dissolution, human and spiritual, life and death.  

Image #15, Grey Figure particularly fascinates me in the way that the figure (is it a Self Portrait?) is simultaneously emerging and/or dissolving into the auratic atmosphere surrounding it.  We see a similar phenomena in the 1958 painting, image #16, which is a portrait of Giacometti's mother.  Interestingly, when Giacometti was on his death bed he is quoted to have said: "Soon again I'll see my mother."  James Lord writes in his biography: To be united with her in the sight of eternity was his dying wish.  It seems to me both these late paintings (#15 & #16) invoke, not at all the feeling of death, but just the opposite.  Both figures seem to be in a process of transforming into something akin to an eternal realm of living presence.  From a yogic perspective, one might say the vital energy supporting this process is the ever present Shaktithe creative energy of the universe.

Each of these five images functions for me as a symbol. They give visible form to an invisible and ineffable meaning that is the Unitary Reality, the one Self.   I truly love the late works, even though I am aware of how their mystery and their intense energy test me, tease me into facing my own fears of both life and death.  I am inspired by Giacometti's genius which I think lies in his willingness to work spontaneously, allowing himself to be led by the inner vision and grace of his very intense creative process, a process which transforms his fears into transcendent, luminous, vital images, symbolic images, images which conjoin Death and Life into a singular dynamic visual creative whole. 


A Collection of
Steven D Foster

17   Gloria, head, upside down, light upon her closed eyelids  1970

18  Old Man Standing in Red Lined Casket, 2007  

19   Triadic Poem for the Departing Landscape  2007-12
Death's face;  Old boat;  Hanging frame 

20  Triadic Poem for the Departing Landscape  2007-12
Falling Man; Three Birds flying in a circle in a starry sky; Suspended ladder

21    Triadic Poem for the Departing Landscape  2007-12
Woman Waling into light; Illuminated foggy landscape; and 
three figures both "Waving Goodby" and "Welcoming" travelers 

22   Death-Wish Image of A Man Bathing in the Wisconsin River
from the project: 
Family Life

A Chronology of Death-Related Events 
in the life of Steven D. Foster

I have been fascinated by some of the similarities that seem to exist between my own personal life experiences and Giacometti's.  Certainly his many visionary experiences, and his multiple brushes with death have impressed me in the way that they sometimes appear to echo my own.  I want to try to share some of my insights about this with you.

In 2003 I wrote an essay Death, Art and Writing that now seems curiously related to Giacometti's essay "The Dream, the Sphinx and the Death of T."  My essay is a collection of 23 short stories or brief contemplations on the themes of death and art which have come directly out of my own personal experiences and then their relationship to my creative process in photography.  

My chronology must begin with my Epiphany of 1955.  It is such an important moment of revelation to me.  I included it as a brief essay on the Welcome Page of my photography blog along with two other "epiphanic essays."  The 1955 epiphany announces my destiny; it initiates me into what would be a life-long, intimate and fruitful relationship with photography, and an ever-unfolding expansive creative process.   

There is an important reason I mention the 1955 epiphany here: it occurred not only just days before my birthday, but also just days before my father's death.  When he died, in the middle of the night in a nearby hospital, I experienced his passing, I believe as it was happening in real time even though I was at my cousin's house, spending the night with him in his attic bedroom.  (See Story #5, Writing, Art & Death)  

The next morning, when I heard footsteps coming up the attic stairs to the bedroom, I knew in my heart that I was going to be told that my father had died in the night.  As my Aunt Lilly was telling me this, I was sitting on the living room couch looking out a large picture window.  Through the window I could see a telephone pole with crossbars of insulators holding up many many wires.  That image became etched in my psyche; in the years that followed I would make several photographs influenced by the remembrance of that haunting childhood death-related image.  Indeed thirty years later, I made the photograph below for my 1984-85 project City Places.   

23   from the project: City Places 

It has always felt to me that photography served to support me through the difficulties of my fatherless childhood . . . .  Photography became my constant companion, my way of learning about the world, my way of being in the world as a creator.  As I grew a bit older I began to feel that my life was being guided by my involvement with photography.  I knew what I wanted to do--what I must do-- and with singular focus and no hesitation I went after what it was that seemed most important to me.  My creative process in photography connected me intensely to everything that seemed important:  it got me out of a small town in Indiana; it got me through college and graduate school.  It led me to my wife, my family and my career as an artist and teacher.  All this seemed to have been preparation; when the time was right, in 1987, I was at last ready to enter upon a true yogic path and meet my sadguru, my true teacher, Gurumayi.  Shortly thereafter my photography and my yogic practices began to merge into each other.  


Another  earlier childhood remembrance hinted at the idea that I was destined to be a photographer.  When I was eight or nine years old I used to play war in the back yard with my friends.  We had dug a "fox hole" in our neighbor's yard (it was deep, it looked more like a grave) and we would try to take over that space in the earth for its vantage point in shooting others with our toy guns.  However, that particular summer (1953 or 54) my little sister had received a gift, a doctor's or nurse's kit, and it included a little plastic box with a sliding back.  It was an x-ray machine, however I liked thinking it was a camera.  I had been watching the tv series Man With A Camera with the greatest of fascination; I especially loved watching the pictures develop, the image slowly emerging in the darkroom tray.  One afternoon, instead of shooting my war-game friends with a gun, I would "shoot" pictures of them with "my camera," the plastic x-ray machine.  I was a war photographer, rather than a soldier.  (Story #4, Writing, Art & Death)


(22)   "Bather"  from the project: City Places 

In 1984 I had an experience that convinced me there really was such a thing as an unconscious death wish.  I was swimming in the Wisconsin River with my two children and accidentally banged my head on a tree limb hidden under the water.  I was knocked nearly unconscious and found myself under water feeling like I had to make a decision: to live or to die.  I based my decision, in part, because my two children were alone with me at the time (we were on an over-night camping trip so my wife Gloria could study for a graduate college course she was taking).  And there was another, more secret, unconscious reason upon which I based my decision.

I had been holding a lot of suppressed anger about my dad's death, about his leaving me at such a young age.  I wished he had stayed in my life.  I realized, under the water, that I didn't want my children to suffer the same experience I had been through, so I consciously forced myself up and out of the water (my head and chest covered with blood) so that I could continue my life as a father for my kids.  

The event had occurred right on or near the anniversary date of my father's passing.  He was 39 years old when he died, and I was about to have my 39th birthday when this mysterious near-death event on the Wisconsin River occurred.  The image #22 above, from my Family Life project is not literally a picture of me;  I photographed this bather in the Wisconsin River earlier that same summer on an outing with several friends.  The image nonetheless re-presents (and it seemed to anticipate) the experience I would have weeks later on the River when I was alone with my children.  

The two shadowy reflections of figures in the water above the man's right hand, and the solitary figure on the left edge, seem auspiciously important to me.  Perhaps they represent memories, "shadows of the past," or perhaps the "future;"  perhaps they represent the presence of death surrounding a young man absorbed in soaking up the heat and the light of the sun.  The sun reflections on the bottom edge of the photograph have always appeared to me as if eyes peering out (at me) from inside the image.  (Story #18, Writing, Art & Death) 

25   from the project: Color Diptychs

I was graced with a series of amazing experiences associated with the death of my mother.  The pair of pictures above, from the series Color Diptychs 1988-89 were made for the project which was completed just before my mother died.  The entire project was intended to be a contemplation on death, but later I realized it was also a way of preparing for my mother's passing.  

The idea that initiated the project and the decision to use the diptych format came from a book I had been reading: The Tibetan Book of the Living and the Dying.  I became fascinated with the Buddhist idea of the Bardo, which was discussed at length in the book.  The Bardo is a psychic space that "exists" between life and death; it's a space in which the soul prepares, after the death of the body, for the next world, or the next life.  The diptychs were about the in-between psychic space, the Imaginal world that was manifested in the the space between the two photographs.  

When I said the project prepared me for my mother's death, what I mean is that when I went into the hospital to be with my mother during the last two days of her life, I had been reading about death and cultural differences in the way death is perceived, celebrated, etc.  Equally important, the project was one the earliest bodies of work I created after my initiation into Siddha Yoga.  (I began practicing Siddha Yoga in 1987).  One of the experiences I had in the hospital with my mother, who was on her "death-bed" at the time, was a palpable presence of the divine that filled the room along with an unearthly presence of light.  You can read more about my experiences in the hospital with my mother: see Story #19, Writing, Art & Death.

26   from the Persephone Series

The photograph above is from my 1976 project The Persephone Series.  It shows my daughter Jessica, just over one year old, as Persephone, daughter of the Greek Goddess Demeter.  In the greek myth Persephone was abducted by Hades, the Lord of Death and taken to his underground kingdom to be his Queen of the Dead.  All the pictures for the project were made just before and some time after Jessica had become deathly ill and taken to the hospital.  Indeed, she in fact did nearly die before a solution was finally discovered for her frighteningly unusual medical situation.  

I learned of the Greek myth involving Persephone from a friend who had see the photographs after the series had been completed.  My wife and I were amazed at the experiential and visual parallels he pointed out to us between the mythic story and our own personal experience of our daughter's near-death illness.  Some of the photographs I made for the project seem quite literally like illustrations of this archetypal story which provided the Greek with an explanation for the existence of the four seasons of the year.   

The Persephone Series is the third part of a fascinating visual trilogy that explores multiple-exposure-in-the-camera and local solarization of the print.  


This next experience actually relates in some ways to the Persephone story.  My wife Gloria was hit by a car in Brooklyn early in the summer of 1969, just weeks before we were to be married.  The picture below was made many years later, in the 1990's I believe, but when I saw the drawing on the street the entire experience of my near loss of Gloria came rushing back to me.  Just about every puddle photograph I have ever made after I made the image below--and there have indeed been many puddle pictures made since then--has invoked the remembrance of this horrible event in my life and in Gloria's life.  

(For example, the next image, #28 below is a puddle picture which I made just this year, 2017.  Also, see the following image, #29, a symmetrical construction of a puddle photograph.)  

Following the photographs, below, I will present the story of Gloria's near-death car accident exactly as it is written in my essay #15 from Writing, Art & Death.

27  Puddle and lines drawn on the street, with  tree shadows
from the series Studies

28   Photograph, Rain Puddle, 2017

29   Symmetrical Photograph, Rain Puddle from the project 


A Near-Death Experience in Brooklyn  
Just weeks before going to New Mexico for my graduate studies in photography, I asked Gloria to marry me.   She was studying art at Pratt University in Brooklyn, and I was living in Manhattan and working for a commercial photographer; we had been getting together on the weekends for nearly a year.  

I was very unhappy with my work and with living in New York city.  I needed to get out of  the city and I wanted to be with Gloria.  When I got the invitation to go to the University of New Mexico on a fully paid fellowship with a living stipend, I asked Gloria to come with me.  We decided it would be best to get married.  During the summer of 1969, as we were preparing to get married and move to Albuquerque, New Mexico, just weeks before we were to get married, Gloria got hit by a car.

Gloria lived in an apartment in Brooklyn close to Pratt.  Her sister Phyllis, who had married my friend Jim, lived in the same building.  We all were in Phyllis and Jim's apartment at the time of the accident.  Gloria and Phyllis were preparing a Saturday night meal, and Gloria had to go out for some things at the corner grocery store.  I was listening to music with the headphones . . . and after a while Phyllis and I both got this sinking feeling when we realized Gloria had not come back from the store.   She was gone way too long, so we went out looking for her.

When I saw a crowd of people near the corner store under the elevated train tracks with lights flashing and sirens howling, I broke through the crowd and saw a chalk outline of a figure drawn on the street.  Inside the drawing there was a puddle of fresh blood.  I learned from the police that it was Gloria who had been hit by a car and she had been taken to the hospital.  

Puddle and lines drawn on the street, with  tree shadows

The police rushed me and Phyllis to the hospital in their car with sirens blasting and lights flashing.  I remember feeling grateful for the police – their concern and help, their authority to stop traffic and go through red lights . . .   

In the hospital waiting room, I remember just being amazingly numb, suspended in time and feeling.  My whole life with Gloria had perhaps just been taken away from me.

Gloria survived.  Several teeth had been knocked out, a bone in her foot was broken.   She had a concussion.  For most of the next two years I would often see her go into a kind of day-dreaming-like trance, with eyes glazed over because of the concussion.

Since then, I have been obsessed with photographing puddles.  In the case of the image above I was conscious of the direct association of the image to Gloria's accident--the puddle of blood inside the drawing of a figure on the street.  It has often occurred to me that my other puddle photographs may relate back to that experience in a very subliminal way as well - though of course the meaning of any photograph could not be limited to this kind of association alone.  Photographs that function as true symbols are open-ended in their potential meanings.  from my essay: Death, Art & Writing, story #15

I wanted to say a few words about the third image, (#29) a symmetrical photograph.  Clearly it is a puddle photograph but of an entirely other world unto itself.  (Please click on it twice, which will allow you to get a closer, more internal view of the image.)  

The symmetrical image is such a complete transformation of its source image, a photograph of a puddle--that I can no longer associate it with my experience of Gloria's accident.  The symmetrical image takes me into what seems to be the very depths of myself; it is an image that is, for me, full of wonder, mystery, and the silence of union.  


(17)   Gloria, up-side-down head, eyes closed 1970

The image above,  (#17) the first photograph presented in my Collection is an image of Gloria I made less than a year after we were married.  It is quite clear to me that I was still suffering from the shock of Gloria's near-death accident in Brooklyn.  There were often moments when Gloria would lapse into a fog-like state of being (due to her concussion) that both fascinated me and terrified me.  It would sometimes seem to me that I was loosing her as she dissolved into that mode of being.  (Perhaps she would never return.)  The highlights on Gloria's closed eyelids appear to me as a pair of self-luminous eyes.  They glow with an internal kind of light that could have originated from deep within her soul.  The "eyes of light" are looking out at me, perhaps from within the Bardo she was visiting during one of those lapses into concussion consciousness.   


I have made many many photographs about death over the past fifty years.  Some were made with a conscious awareness, others were made on impulse.  In a certain way, perhaps all photographs are about death . . . in the sense that when time is perceived as a linear unfolding of events any photograph immediately becomes about the past that has been lived and lost, created and then dissolved into stillness, and remembrance.

This thought brings me to my project The Departing Landscape, of 2007-12.  The title comes from a phrase used by the American composer Morton Feldman in which he describes the way we hear sounds--perhaps a single musical note performed from one of his piano compositions.  Feldman said we experience sound as a departing landscape, as it is leaving us, rather than coming toward us.

This statement of course could be taken as a metaphor for how we experience life:  every sound . . . ever moment in our lives . . . emerging from silence, becoming suspended in time (momentarily) in our hearing, in our living . . .  and then dissolving back into its unknown origin, into silence.

When I began constructing my photography website in November, 2010, I had just recently retired from teaching photography (a kind of death, a kind of re-birth) and Gloria and I moved from Milwaukee to Canandaigua, NY (a kind of death, a kind of re-birth).  At that time I actually wondered if the future would include photography, for I thought that perhaps my life as an exhibiting artist had come to an end.  But then my son Shaun suggested I create a blog.  As it turned out, unexpectedly, the birth of my photography website-blog, entitled The Departing Landscape initiated me into a whole new level of creative activity.  The blog offered me a tremendously refreshing, liberating, new beginning.

The photograph below, included in my Collection of images above (#21) is for me an image simultaneously of death and re-birth.  I now use this image as the "Welcoming" image on my blog's home page.  The woman is departing this life, but entering a world of light, a world of renewal, spiritual healing, and rebirth.  The landscape is emerging from within the light.  The three figures are both waving "farewell" to the past, and welcoming travelers to the new world.

(21)  The Departing Landscape

Coincidently, just as I started constructing my website-blog, Gloria and I learned of the threat of hydrofracking in New York State.  Hydrofracking is a horrendously toxic, dangerous, disruptive, process that is used in the extraction of natural gas and oil that is stored in shale rock deep below the surface of the earth. If you were to study the subject deeply, and understood its destructive impact upon the planet and its atmosphere, particularly in terms of climate change, you would have to agree with me that this process--and the continued use of fossil fuels--is a tremendous threat to the well being of the life of the planet and of course all of us who are dependent upon the planet for our sustained existence.  Hydrofracking is but another example of corporate greed gone amuck.  It is closely tied to the power structures of Wall Street banking and investing, and then of course the ever-expansive world of political corruption at the state, national and international levels of government.

We are living in a Departing Landscape.  We are beginning to experience the natural consequences of our neglect, our indifference, our abusive behaviors enacted upon the Earth, our lack of respect for the very origin and nurturing center of our existence.   The flooding and fires and earthquakes, the long droughts and intense storms we are now experiencing all over the world are but the initial symptoms of a planet that is leaving us.  My children and grandchildren will be faced with tremendous challenges because of what we have done and not done to protect and care for our planet.

There may be a way to slow down the process of the Earth's dissolution, but it will take a coordinated, cooperative world effort to accomplish that.  Right now, in the era of a Trump presidency, there seems to be no political will to protect or care for the planet.  It will have to happen from the grass roots up.  Most of the  changes that can be made in the face of this crisis will have to take place internally, in the heart of those who care.  This is yet another reason why Siddha Yoga and my creative process in photography are so important to me.  Together, they keep me in touch with my own inner world, the world of spirit, soul, the Self, the Imaginal world . . .  


I have as yet to write about image #18, Old Man Standing in a Casket, and the two Visual Poems, images #19 & #20.  The humorous, ironic image of the old man standing in the casket is one part of another Triadic Visual Poem.  You can click here to see that image and several other Poems.

I don't want to say too much about these images.  I believe the Poems should not be explained, especially by me.  They require the viewer's active participation, for the meaning of the poems are open-ended.  Though a narrative is implied, it is a narrative that must be filled out and completed by the viewer.

Participation in the poems would consist of a viewer entering imaginatively into the spaces between the three images, and then, quietly, simply listening to the silent conversation going on between the images.  I also encourage you, the viewer, to enter into the conversation, a conversation which is beyond words, beyond language; in other words a silent conversation, an Imaginal conversation.

Though I have given some clues as to how I view the images via their descriptive titles, and by the very fact that the images are included in this project which is exploring themes of death and fear of death, my clues are not what the images, or the poems mean.  The meaning exists in the space, the Bardo, between the images.         



30  Symmetrical Photograph : Puddle and Flower Petals

Each night
the moon kisses 
the lover who counts
the stars.


31   Triadic Poem for the Departing Landscape  2007-12
Bandaged Hand with Sparkler; Old man with hat sitting in the Starry Sky-- 
in the space between the divided moon; Tree branch with leaves



The past seven years (2010-2017) have been the most intense period of creative photographic activity I have ever experienced.  I think the blog is partly responsible for this: it has allowed me great freedom to pursue my creative process without the slightest need to compromise.  In part I think that retirement from teaching is a factor; the increased time I have been able to give to my creative process has allowed me to work in long sustained periods of time without much interruption.  And in part, the increased creative activity has had to do with a more complete and conscious understanding of the growing alignment that has been occurring between my practice of Siddha Yoga and my practice of photographic picture-making (symbol-making).

When I recently revised the Welcome Page for my website-blog I included three brief Epiphany essays the first, as you know, is about my1955 epiphany which announced my destined, life-long creative involvement with photography just before the death of my father; the second epiphany is about my 1987 initiation into Siddha Yoga; and the third epiphany is about my 2011 project "An Imaginary Book" in which I recognized the need within myself to explore the idea, the possibility of Sacred Art within a contemporary art practice (such as my own).

To be ever vigilant, ever mindful of death's presence in ones life is a yogic practice.  Since I have begun to consciously bring my creative process in photography into alignment with my yogic practices, the two have gradually become inseparably one for me.  As such, the creative visual fruit of this unity is, essentially, Sacred Art.  As by now you must know, the heart of my photographic practice is the symbolic photograph, an image of Unitary Reality, which in yoga is said to be the divine Self.  (The concept of the Self will be further elaborated upon in the Afterword, below.)

A list of my Sacred Art Photography Projects is available at this link.  And below, I have listed my online photography projects that deal in varying ways with the theme of death and fear.  I welcome you to these projects, and all the other ones posted on my Welcome Page . 

        The Faint Photographs



Fear of Death

I must conclude this project with the grace-filled words of a great modern-day yogic saint from India, Swami Muktananda (1908 - 1982 click here ).  He experienced his death in meditation and then wrote about it in his remarkable autobiography Play of Consciousness.  The entire book is a truly revelatory account of a human being's longing, search for and final merging with his own inner divinity, which in yoga is sometimes referred to as Universal Consciousness, or the unmanifest light of the Self.

Swami Muktananda, at the command of his Meditation Master, Bhagawan Nityananda, founded the Siddha Yoga Path.  Before Muktananda died, he passed the power, the Shakti, the spiritual energy of the Siddha Yoga lineage to Swami Chidvilasananda, also known as Gurumayi.  My wife Gloria and I met Gurumayi in 1987 and received shaktipat initiation from her.  See my project Photography and Yoga.

Swami Muktananda wrote profusely.  One of the most important of his books for me, other than his autobiography, is Does Death Really Exist?  It is a little book, and yet it contains everything.  I quoted profusely from it in the Afterword which concludes my recent project Death: A Meditation in images and texts  2016.  To conclude this project, I will provide a few excerpts from his Does Death Really Exist? plus excerpts from some of his other Siddha Yoga publications.

I consider Swami Muktananda's words full of divine wisdom; for me, his words are overflowing with grace, the divine energy or shakti of his enlightened state.  I like to think of his words presented here as a kind of Benediction for the project and anyone who has experienced it.  His words remind me and help me move toward the realization that the fear of death, the fear of loss, the fear of life can be transcended.  Here now are the words of Swami Muktananda:

_________      *  _________

If there is any truth in this world . . . it lies within a human being.  When God reveals Himself, He does so within the human heart.  Only a human being has the capacity to know himself.  

That is what is special about human birth.  If a person does not use this birth to know himself, to understand his own inner Consciousness, then his life is wasted.  A person's duty is to find out who he is.

The Blue Pearl . . . is the body of the Self.  All consciousness is contained in it.  When the Blue Pearl departs from the body, consciousness departs from the bloodstream, the nerves, and the lungs, leaving everything limp and lifeless.  "Death" is simply the name we give to the departure of the Blue Pearl from the body.   

How can a person free himself from this wheel of death and rebirth?  He can do so only by going within and, through meditation, discovering his own inner Self.  . . .   In meditation we discard our individual ego and merge with the Self.  

The ego is the veil which hides the Self and keeps us bound to the body.  . . .   The truth is that it is our own ego which is death for us.  When we have gone beyond the ego, death no longer exists.  
(from Does Death Really Exist?)
_________      *  _________

[In a story from the Yoga Vasishtha one older brother--an enlightened being--says to his younger brother who is grieving the death of their father:] "The fact is that in every moment countless fathers are dying and countless fathers are coming into being.  You will see them all.  Then you will realize that there is no one to weep for, there is no one to laugh with."  

Then through the process known as Shaktipat [the older, enlightened brother] transmitted his inner mind into his younger brother, and as a result the younger brother went into a profound meditation.  In that state he had a cosmic vision in which he saw that he had been born in all different life forms in different births, and every creature was related to him.  Every creature was his brother, father, son, and so on.  . . .  When the vision was finished he came to himself, and he began to laugh, because now he realized that it was a mistake to weep for one particular father.

One is born and one dies countless times.  Tukaram says, "Billions are born and billions die.  For whom shall you weep?  For whom shall you laugh?"  . . .  The fact is that every living being is related to you in one way or another, and you have been related to every living being in one life or another. . .  try to go beyond and become immersed in the One in whom you should be immersed.  The entire universe is a play of the one Self.  (from Satsang with Baba, Questions and Answers with Swami Muktananda, Vol. 4)

_________      *  _________

One dies to be reborn and one is born to die. . .  Death and birth are of no significance. . . . Tukaram said to his wife, "Why are you mourning the death of one who has already died millions of times and will die millions of times more?  How long can you weep?  Give up weeping."

Purandaradasa said to a grieving mother: "Mother, you must realize that the body which you grew in your womb was made of dust and it was compounded not by your husband or by you, but by the Lord.  The Lord placed it there, and if the same Lord has taken it away, why should you lament so much?"

So why should you be so deluded, why should you be so anxious, why should you brood over it?  You stopped thinking about the One you should have been thinking about. . .  You should abandon grief, and you should think about the Lord, not about the dead. . .  The question which should be uppermost in your mind is, "How can I save myself?"  Think about that.  Meditate on your Self, worship your Self, honor your Self . . .    That is how you should be spending your time.  . . . Honor your own Self.  The Self is the most sublime Lord. . .  If you honor the Self, the Self will honor you.   (from Satsang with Baba, Questions and Answers with Swami Muktananda, Vol. 4)

_________      *  _________

The following is from Swami Muktananda's autobiography, The Play of Consciousness.  This particular excerpt is taken from Chapter Thirty, entitled "Fear of Death."  It describes a meditation experience of his own death, an experience which liberated him from fear.

One day my sahasrara [the spiritual energy center in the crown of the head] opened up, and its light was released, and the brilliance of not one or two thousand but millions of suns blazed all around.  The light was so fierce that I could not stand it, and my courage broke down.  I no longer had the power to stop my meditation . . .  My posture was not under my control, nor could I open or close my eyes at will.  The brilliance had drawn me toward itself, and as I gazed at it, I lost consciousness. . . .   Just as a dying man opens his mouth, spreads his arms, and makes a strange sound, so I fell down making this sort of noise.  

I lay in an unknown state of unconsciousness for about an hour . . . then as a man rises from sleep I got up and laughed to myself, saying, "I just died, but now I'm alive again."  I got up feeling very much at peace, very happy, and very full of love.  I realized  that I had experienced death when I saw the unmanifest divine radiance as bright as millions of suns.  I had been very frightened, but from this experience I now understood death, I realized that death is nothing but this condition.  Once I had seen that sphere of unmanifest light, I lost all fear.  This is the state of liberation from individual existence.  Since then my courage has increased a great deal, and I no longer know any fear.  I am not afraid of anything.  I never think about what is going to happen.  I never worry about what somebody will do.  The place of fear within me has been destroyed.  I have attained total fearlessness.

This project was posted on my Welcome Page
on my birthday, September 10, 2017

Homage to Giacometti, Projects List

1.  Introduction : "Portraits" Heads Faces
2.  Line-Drawing Photograph Portraits
3.  Figures & Triadic Visual Poems 
4.  Landscapes, Still Lifes, Place and Presence
5.  Regarding Giacometti's Fear of Death  
6.  Vision, Re-vision and "Recurrence of Creation"
7.  New Work, Commentaries, Epilogue

Welcome Page for this website TheDepartingLandscape.blogspot.com which includes the complete listing of my online photography projects, my resume, contact information, and much more.