The fig leaf became a symbol of censorship in art in the 16th century, as nude paintings and sculptures depicted fig leaves to cover genitals. I will explore the origins of the Western concept of shame over nudity, and of the destructive attitude toward the environment. Both can be traced to interpretations of the story of the Garden of Eden (Genesis). It is possible that the whole idea of nakedness being shameful could have been a mistake of translation, with the word for the uncovering of deception being mistaken for the word for being without clothing. Especially in its Western form, Christianity is the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen. Not only does it establish a dualism of man and nature, but it also insists that it is God’s will for man to exploit nature for his own ends. By destroying pagan animism (the ancient concept that all natural objects and creatures had a spirit to be respected), Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects. Pulling these two concepts together, I will use the fig leaf as a symbol of shame, but with reference to the environment rather than nudity. I will explore this through large pastel and/or acrylic pieces.
Having spent most of my life by the sea, witnessing the toll on nature and humankind caused by the demise of once abundant fish stocks, my sculptures (whether figurative or semi-abstract) express deeply held views on the environment, the frailty of the human condition and the resilience of the human spirit. Recent advancements in genetic engineering and cloning, and the moral dilemmas they present, have added another layer to my continued exploration of the complexities of interaction between humans and our environment.
Jim Maunder is an educator and sculptor, working in a variety of media including bronze, steel, ceramic, wood, fiberglass and concrete. He recently moved to St. Catharines in the beautiful Niagara Region of Ontario, Canada. Raised in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – a small but culturally vibrant coastal city at the easternmost extremity of North America, he received his formal training at Memorial University in St. John’s and at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto. Maunder is represented in Newfoundland and Labrador by Christina Parker Gallery and in Hamilton, Ontario by Gallery on the Bay. He has exhibited in solo and group shows across Canada, New York and Tokyo.