Gerald Van Syoc, The Third Sign of Fire, 2019

We read the title and we search our memory banks for a religious story about three signs of fire, but it is just beyond our reach. This painting does not reference the fire and brimstone in Revelations, nor is it the story of the burning bush, so we go back to the painting, looking for clues. Do those birds in flight represent freedom? Is that naked man (or child) being baptized in the river? Why is there a deer behind the fire? There are lots of familiar elements but they don’t match up; perhaps that is why we dwell on this painting, forcing narrative elements to conform to previously established stories.

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