Haden Nicholl

The Origin of the World, 2008

The origin of the world series deals simultaneously with two aspects of existence; the known and concrete as well as the intuitive and primordial. The text and ideas in the series with the white backgrounds are based primarily on different psychological and scientific theories. The work with the dark backgrounds are culled from folklore and creation myths. For example “Baba Yaga” depicts the stereotypical witch, but on another level she represents an aspect of the Jungian archetype of the great mother. The piece with the heart shaped box of candy and the metal animal form is based on a psychological study on attachment. In the study an infant reeses monkey was placed in a cage with a wire monkey form and another covered in carpet. The infant was taken care of in respect to food and shelter but the only companionship was provided by the animal forms. During the study the infant would only respond to the carpeted figure. When the infant was introduced to other monkeys it was incapable of normal, healthy interaction. A test was also conducted using only the wire figure and the infant did not survive long enough to be introduced to other monkeys.

The text “Love is a part of nature’s design” and “If nobody loves you, you will die”, imply these test results.

In the work “The Origin of the World” (painted by Gustave Coubet in 1866) the basic ideas of this series come together in the history of the original as well as it’s concept. Together, the image and title imply that the erotic aspects are downplayed, and the ideas about birth and the beginning of life dominate. On a deeper level ancient creation myths are referenced, such as the Babylonian myth of Tiamat who represented primordial chaos that birthed the world, and the Venus of Willendorf. The painting was also owned at one point by Jacques Lacan, preeminent psychiatrist and philosopher whose work greatly impacted critical theory and twentieth-century french philosophy.

The pieces are in watercolor, ink, and in some instances colored pencil on paper.