NARRATOR: The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is one of eleven pieces that Jay DeFeo made of a single view of a single cup. This work is number three in the ten numbered works in the series.
GREILMARCUS: Her friend, Ron Nagle, who’s a ceramic sculptor in San Francisco, had given her a cup for her sixtieth birthday in 1989, the year that she died.
NARRATOR: Writer Greil Marcus.
GREILMARCUS: Here was this cup, and she began to look at it. She began to turn it. She began to stand over it, look up from below it, look at it from every conceivable angle, look into it, look at it out of the corner of her eye.
Of these ten pieces, the one that I find the most overwhelming and the one that carries its own aura that just demands that you come to grips with it somehow, is this implacable image that can look like a knight in armor. It can look like an avenging devil. It can look like a tombstone. It can look like all different sorts of things.
It’s a really scary piece. And yet you have to remember it’s made out of play. It’s made out of experiment. It’s made out of fetishization. You take a little cup, and it was very little, this cup that Ron Nagle gave to Jay DeFeo. With a visual instinct, a tremendously rich imagination, and an ability to let go, to let your subconscious become your conscious mind, to let your subconscious guide your eye and your hand to make something that wasn’t there before.
It just shows if you apply enough energy, enough desire, and enough sense of delight at the multiplicity of visual forms in the world, you can make anything out of them. There’s no end to the shapes that even the most ordinary object can take.