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  • Writer's pictureAudrey Tokarz

It Wasn't An Apple

I don’t often do this but here goes: for anyone who’s interested, you can have not only my art but my reflections on the story that inspired it and the process of its development.

This piece started out very simply as a sketch I made because I apparently got fed up with the popular conflation of the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (in Genesis 3 – the story of the Fall) with an apple. It wasn’t an apple – as I have clearly written as a heading here. The design is meant to be a corruption or degradation of the aforementioned misconception, which is to say that the image of an apple with a bite out of it has begun to sprout signs of decay or evil – from the somewhat innocuous worm to the insectile legs, rivulets of blood, venom-dripping fangs, and finally demonic tail. To be sure, these things are also symbolic, not literal, but they allude to the heart of the matter.

I made the original sketch while I was a theology major in undergrad, where we talked a lot about Original Sin, and in several cases ventured back to the story in Genesis 3. The abbreviated explanation is that the sin of the Fall is not the fact that Adam and Eve ate something they shouldn’t have, thereby getting the equivalent of spiritual food poisoning and enacting the unreasonable wrath of a jealous gardener, it was that they turned away from God by doubting His goodness and trustworthiness. He warned them not to eat the fruit of this particular tree for their own good, but the serpent encouraged them to see God as jealously hoarding some source of ultimate power.

Recently, I decided to develop this sketch into a digital illustration, which has apparently become one of my favorite pass-times. I made the apple green to differentiate it from the red of the blood and the tail, which made the idea of having foliage in the background – to capture the setting of the Garden – impractical. So now the background is meant to imitate aged paper, which I suppose works better with the words and even the illustrative style, and I added the flames in the hopes of creating some semblance of balance and unity. The hand was a last-minute addition (and flowed naturally from a semester drawing exclusively hands), but I think it adds balance and character to the piece despite – or perhaps because of – the fact that it minimizes some of the contrast and detail in the central object.

Shortly after finishing this piece, one of my professors in a graduate class I am taking on St. Francis mentioned the saint’s idea that the ingestion of the fruit is important in its own right. Not only did we distrust and turn away from God, we moved from a belief in an external moral absolute – the existence of a standard of good and evil that we did not create and could not control – to an internalization of morality – believing that we could be the authors of good and evil, and, by extension, even truth itself. This story is a beautiful illustration of the adoption of moral relativism, which is a huge issue within not only faith (and theology), but even secular philosophy and society as a whole. (I could rant about relativism forever, but that’s not the point of this current reflection, so I will content myself with that.) The story of the Fall even came up in the priest’s homily this past Sunday, even though we only read Genesis 2, so it’s very much on my mind.

If you’ve read this far, thank you for your patience. Hopefully you found something interesting – I would love to hear your thoughts on this story, the piece, or any of the topics therein, and I am always happy to elaborate if you are interested in some particular idea I mentioned – or glazed over – above.

These next few years are going to be a critical time of discernment and exploration for me – I am trying to figure out how I can use my gifts and talents and how they fit together. Most relevant for this outlet is that I’m trying to figure out how I am going to fit my art into my life, and it seems that perhaps what I need to do is use my art as a method of communicating with others – inviting others into the contemplation of things I consider to be beautiful or otherwise important, and a big part of this, even though it probably hasn’t come through as of yet, is my faith.

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