About the Cave Series


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Since mid-2016 Sarah Jacobs  has worked on a series of paintings that she named The Cave after Plato’s allegory. In the story the characters grow up in a cave, chained to face only the wall. Behind them people and objects pass by. The prisoners believe that the shadows that are cast on the wall by a fire are the actual objects or people and that these shadows are the only things that exist in the world. One person escapes, leaves the cave, and sees the world illuminated by sunlight. That person realizes that the shadows were not the things themselves. When the escapee returns to the cave to educate the other prisoners they do not believe what they are told.

Jacobs paints these works with varying degrees of realism within each. Human-designed repeating patterns exist against much more realistically rendered subjects, such as ivy, flowers, or animal bodies. These appear real, compared to the flatter-looking patterns, but they are another level of deception, because they are in fact not real. The paintings are new objects in themselves that trick the viewer by successfully mimicking extant objects by comparing them to that which is less realistic, the patterns.

In some of the paintings (Odalisque, Dark Days, Fake Flowers, Carol, The Cave, and Adult Coloring Book) this is clear. In other paintings the realistic elements are hidden, by the similar background colors in Ecstasy, and by their tiny size in Waiting to be Born Again. In that painting eleven caterpillars and chrysalises are hidden within the picture plane, Where's Waldo-style. In Ecstasy look for the overlapping fern on the left-hand side of the painting, and for the small stems and leaves that are a little over one fifth of the way across the painting moving from right to left, and vertically mid-painting. One painting is named after the series, The Cave. The background pattern in that painting is not a pattern at all. Instead it is a depiction of the same ivy broken down into its simplest forms, dark and light, to resemble a shadow. Coincidentally (or perhaps not) Jacobs has been using cave interiors as inspirations for painting compositions long before beginning The Cave series.