I had the rare opportunity to view this painting during the exhibition “Shut up and Paint” held at the Aurora Gallery in the trendy Chelsea art district in Manhattan during the Summer of 2004. I have visited Linder's studio numerous times during the creation of this painting and never really understood it until now. “Transitions” is actually composed of sixty smaller canvases assembled aesthetically into a collection of six. Those groups of six canvases are then joined together to form a whole. Here is an excerpt from the artist's statement which I think sums it up; “I created Transitions as an experiment to explore an idea over a period of ten years.” This exhibition was the first time the panoptic painting Transitions has been completed and on public display.

Every year during a ten-year span the artist patiently and lovingly created each of the sixty canvases one by one capturing a moment in time from his life, his thought process, symbols, an idea, dreams, or maybe even a nightmare. Which, I think he achieved very well. This brings to mind a poignant question. What happens to someone in a ten-year span? Everything! People move, change jobs, relationships, friends, etc… All of these things are captured in this painting, and more. In the artist's own words, he used every conceivable technique he knows in the creation of this artwork. He painted one group of six canvases entirely with his fingers, another with only the tube of paint as a tool, and yet another without touching the canvas directly with his hands. This approach leads to some fascinating and truly unique elements of this great work. 

My first impression of “Transitions” has to be chaotic beauty. It looks much larger than 20 feet across when it is fully assembled. The painting is filled with all types of images and symbols from Americana to world culture. There are so many things to see that your eyes almost hurt from looking at it, or maybe it’s your brain that gets overwhelmed because your eyes can’t decide where to stop. Once your eyes traverse the entire space occupied by this omnibus of images, you begin to see the details.

A Buddha figure cloaked in firebrick red and gold emerges from behind leaves on a tree. The Eiffel Tower juts up into a pink sky surrounded by blazing fireworks. Grey mushrooms grow skyward, enveloping a hilltop covered in tiny yellow and pink flower buds. A nude woman surfaces through an emerald background revealing the Vishnu figure inside of her. A martini glass fills the inside of a circular sun. Ancient cave drawings are scratched onto an imaginary wall.... one's eyes never seem to rest in any one location for too long, and each time you look you will find something new to cherish.

What I find particularly interesting to me, are the first six grouped canvases in the upper left corner. Working as the artist works, from the bare canvas forward I will attempt to describe this part of the painting. Linder starts by adding layer upon layer of paint until the elements of the painting achieve a level of transparency and depth similar to the sfumato technique used during the renaissance. 

Linder manipulates analogous colors to highlight an area of interest or emphasize a theme. Six egg-shaped images varying in size, color, and relationship to one another fill the main space of each canvas. A multitude of detailed, superimposed, hand-painted symbols and shapes rest upon each of the oval images synonymous with this architectural feast.

Starting with a prominent blast of dioxazine purple at the center of the first canvas, electrically charged bolts extend outward to form a bubble of energy surrounded by stars and black space. The eye is drawn to the center of the bubble. Upon closer inspection, a bearded Greek philosopher supports himself on a stack of books. His eyes are closed, which evokes a feeling of trance and serenity rather than sleep.

The painting of the philosopher is lucid and ghostly giving the viewer an impression of a dream or a projection. A nude woman emerges from the middle of his forehead from the knees up. Her hands are posed in a way that was famous for artists to paint and sculpt throughout Europe in the fifteenth century. Her pose resembles The Apollo Belvedere, a revered marble sculpture re-discovered in the fifteenth century. The original was cast in bronze and made between 325 and 350 BC by the Greek sculptor Leochares.

Below the Greek philosopher sits another bearded man in the classic yoga Padmasana or lotus position. This figure appears to be a yogi in silhouette. The physical techniques of yoga are the stepping stones to meditation it is said. This bearded figure clearly appears to be meditating and projecting the images of the aforementioned philosopher and the woman that is emanating from his forehead. All of these images form a visual protective shield around a cobalt blue profile of a man’s head with his eyes open. The painting adjacent to this canvas is of a Buddha-type figure painted in a very stylized graphic emphasizing the chakras, which are lit up in contrast to their surroundings. This painting has an intense sense of unity and rhythm, whereas some of the other canvases need more interpretation before one combines the visuals together mentally. 

Consequently, the Buddha figure is projecting a vine-like coil from his forehead out of the area of the third eye used in meditation as a focal point. This vine of life extends across six additional canvases, looping, snaking, and zigzagging toward the center of the painting and intertwining them all together. The vine progressively changes from a painting of energy to a painted image of growing plants and leaves, with transparent figures of animals and insects of various species outlined in white acrylic running along its length. Inside the core of the vine is a human DNA chain. At the end of this vine is a dragon’s head billowing fire back toward its creator the bearded Greek philosopher resting on the books. A bubble of protection warns off its advance, shielding the figure. 

Musicians performing during the closing reception for “Shut up and Paint.”

Dragons are revered mythical creatures in many Native American and Eastern cultures. They are said to have symbolic spiritual energy and hold the primal forces of nature in the universe. The canvas below is of a fetus with an umbilical cord that extends upward as part of the lightning bolt connected to the first canvas. This is obviously representing birth or re-birth, possibly created through the meditation of the other figures. 

The canvas in the upper right is a human hand with graphic highlights of the reflexology points of the body. Painted at the center of the hand is an image of Krishna, the divine lover from ancient Indian text. Krishna was physically irresistible, and many ancient texts emphasize his remarkably seductive demeanor. Gods and goddesses complement each other and represent a conscious duality of masculine and feminine. 

The canvas in the lower right of the first six paintings is a figure of a woman with her arms extended. Her right-hand holds a chameleon; her left hand holds an eagle. The eyes of the female figure are a sun and a moon. She exhales wind from her mouth while standing in the water. Two protruding masculine figures emerge from the water one with a crown as a king, and one as a pauper. This appears symbolic of archaic alchemy representing mother earth and the balance of wealth and poverty. 

The bottom center canvas is a nude woman from the neck down. She is materializing through the depth of emerald space revealing the Vishnu figure inside of her. Vishnu is considered to be an important god in the Hindu culture and Indian mythology. He is also regarded as the conservator of the universe.

After having made my own mental interpretation of this great work of art, I had the very fortunate opportunity to ask the artist what he was painting in the first six canvases that he so expressively combined together. His response was simply “fusion.” 

Needless to say, I was perplexed by his statement after seeing so much mystery and occult symbolism. I asked him to elaborate further. His brow furrowed in the middle of his forehead, and then he smirked.

“I tried to imagine what it would be like to stand in front of the birth of a star and witness the act of fusion without closing my eyes.” He said.

Linder with Johnny Kemp, R&B and dance music singer during the reception for “Shut up and Paint.” Photo credit: Jamie Manalio

"If I could be unaffected by the blast and just watch the changes that would occur, what a spectacle that would be. There would be a tremendous release of energy, the space around the atom would become electric growing to great size, and just as it expands; it suddenly folds in on itself creating an immense vacuum. I think finally the explosion would leave you breathless. The experience would be similar to what we have all seen in those old black and white films from the U.S. nuclear tests of the 1950s. This idea of splitting an atom made me think about the return to my very roots, or fabric of my existence, becoming almost elemental in nature and part of space again." He said. “Life power of birth is about life force and energy in a symbolic way. By using ancient symbols and figures it connected everything to the past.”

In conclusion, the beginning of this painting starts with a bang much like the theory of our own universe. The narrative and graphic style of vivid imagery combined on these canvases reach an apogee somewhere in the middle with a grand finale at the end. The amalgamation of these canvases incorporates the same energy as the first six. This energy ultimately advances the viewer's eye to draw one's own outcome through various stages of implied emotions, symbolism, and perspicuous use of color.

T. Gunzelman