The Family Adamkovich: Sunday Afternoon in the Park

The Family Adamkovich: Sunday Afternoon in the Park
Type: Oil
Dimensions: Width/Height (in inches) 60/48
Year: 2005

This painting explores the dynamics of the biblical first family composed of Adam, and Eve and their three children, Kyan, Hevel and Seth. Kyan is seen in background with his bloodied knife in the air. He has already jealously stabbed his brother Hevel who manages to escape, and is hiding behind his father Adam, and clutching his leg. Hevel is particularly white and is either already dead/ghost-like or close to dead. The flowers around him are soaked in his bright red blood. Kyan is looking upward checking that his actions are unseen by G-d, and his fists are clenched in confrontation, and pursuit to finish off the job. This scene is juxtaposed against a chronologically earlier story of Eve being tempted by the snake with the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The three- legged snake (Tryfus in Yiddish/German) portrayed shamelessly without metaphor has just given Eve her first bite of the fruit after he spiritually and physically seduced her. She has fallen asleep. The snake, to complete the job of moral seduction, now raises another fruit held in Eve’s hand, offering it to Adam who grasps the fruit. Surely Adam realizes that this is the end of innocence. Tears swell in his eyes upon witnessing the visage of his wife lying blissfully in the snake’s arms and on his lap, and imagines the fractured world that will surely ensue. With all this on his mind, is it any wonder that he is oblivious to the murderous intent of one son of the other. He is as powerless to stop the murder of his son, as he was incapable of preventing the lust and adultery of his wife, all of which occur before his very eyes. This also implies that it is the action of the parents which directly or indirectly lead to Kyan’s moral turpitude leading to fratricide.

Growing inside Eve is her third child, Seth, who is included in this family portrait along with his two brothers. This image raises questions of Seth’s paternity and implies that his father may not be Adam. Interestingly enough, there are midrashim that state that Kyan and Hevel’s paternity are in question, and that the cohabitation of Adam with Lilith, a she demon, spawned the world of demonic spirits. This all takes place in the background of the Garden of Eden with the snake and Eve leaning against the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

In the Bible G-d asks Adam and Kyan at different points of the narrative “Ayekuh?” spelled “AYKH”, “where are you?” In the top left of the painting is a bird reversing the question, as he watches all the human shenanigans from the tree top, and shrieks “where are you, oh G-d, full of mercy?” The term “el mullay rachamim,” “G-d full of mercy”, is chanted during Kaddish for the dead. Thus this statement incorporates Kaddish for Hevel. The same four letter word “AYKH” also spells “Aicha?” or “How?” In the painting this word forms the roots of the tree of knowledge. This implies that the root of knowledge hinges on asking the question “How?” Only when this question is asked, do we move from blind faith to theological and scientific enquiry which lay the foundation for technology and civilization. The acquisition of knowledge can only lead to the expulsion from the childlike blissful Eden, where there are no such mentions of Aicha’s. Eden is a world where G-d alone, and not humans, asks questions. Written on the tree of knowledge is a crossword of the words “Da’at” (Knowledge) and “Ayden” (Eden). The letter “nun” of Eden is in the form of a snake. To the left of Eden are the words “Nuh” and “Nod” meaning “wanderer”. Kyan was banished to the land of Nod, east of Eden. and condemned to be a wanderer. It is quite interesting to note that Eden, in Hebrew, when spelled backwards, reading from right to left or west to east, spells “Nuh” and “Nod”. Thus the word “Nod,” like the land “Nod” is indeed east of the word and land of “Eden”, i.e. it is Eden in reverse.

G-d gave Kyan a sign that would prevent everyone else from murdering him. This sign which is never specified in the Bible, in this painting are the words “Tselem Elokinm”, “image of God”, engraved on his chest. Thus when people are confronted with the concept that a human being is a representation of G-d, they would be less apt to kill that human being. Written on Kyan’s shorts are Hebrew words derived via free-association from the word Kyan; “Kina” (Jealousy), “Kinot” (Lamentations), and “Kinim” (pestilence). In the Haggada this leads to other plagues and “Makat Bechoret”, “killing of the first born”.

Written on Hevel’s body are etymological derivatives of his name; “Hevel Havalim”, “vanity of vanities”, and “avel,Avelut”, “morner, morning”. The painting also explores word origins of two other words frequently used in Genesis. The word “Arum” means both “naked” and “sly”. This is written on the neck of the snake in the painting. He is the most sly, and also the most cursed (“Arur”) of all animals. One can interpret Adam and Eve’s being “Arum”, not necessarily as ”naked”, but “sly” i.e. having a highly developed animal, not human, sentience, just like the snake. After eating from the tree of knowledge, they are given “Orot” (skins) by G-d, or one could interpret this as “Orot” (light) i.e. the brightness of evolved human sentience.

I have also used several puns on the term “Urim Vetumim” which is part of the breastplate that the high priest wore. The etiology of these words, and indeed the precise nature and description of this object is obscure. It probably means lights (the voice of G-d) in between the “Tumim”, “twins” i.e. between the cherubim. In this painting on Adam’s genitals are written “Arumim and tamim”, “naked and pure”. On The snake’s arm is written “arumim and tumim”, “tumim” being spelled differently, meaning “naked and impure”. Written on Eve’s arm are the words “Afar vteferet”, “dust and beauty”, a pun on Abraham’s self description of being “afar vefer”, “dust and ashes”.

And what is G-d to think of all of this? Where is G-d? His presence is denoted by the biblical verses etched in the painting’s sky; “and the voice of G-d could be heard walking...”, and “the spirit of G-d hovers…” The giraffe observer -narrator at the upper right of the painting speaks the biblical verse, “and G-d regretted that he created man to inhabit the earth, and he was sad in his heart”. Tears are falling from the tree to symbolize G-d’s sadness and regret. Written inside one of the tears is “Mabul”, “flood”, which G-d will use in the next chapter to wash away his creations with the tears of his discontent.