This study emphasizes the earthy nature of humanity and femaleness. It echoes the old Earth Mother figures, which tied motherly instinct and power with the symbol of the earth.
The flaming colors of red, orange and yellow at the top of the painting, the woman's hair, help to establish that the person is a woman and a human being, but it also amplifies the earth motif by creating sun-like colors.
Like most good compositions, there is a gradation of color so that the eye does not have to jump between harshly different zones. The orange goes into a lighter earth tone that then transitions into the darker mud.
The woman is almost indistinguishable from dirt: The only thing that makes clear that the woman is not simply a part of the sand is the hair, the breast and the hands. In fact, the right breast is masked under the hand and is very intricate to identify. This represents the connection between femininity and earth: Both the soil and women produce and nurture life. There is also a natural beauty to the unadorned female form, even caked in dry and wet sand. This seems to make an artistic claim that clothing distorts and even does violence to the underlying humanity, and that a type of cloth that would not do so would be the mud.
Religious symbolism is also called in: “Dust to dust”, and the formation of man from clay, is a major part of many mythologies. The piece thus seems to connect man and woman not just to the divine Earthmother but to the mundane, both elevating and humbling the human form.
Despite the dirt and mud, the work is very bright: The woman's skin is supple and glowing, her hands bright, and a large light source to the left. This helps to create a fusion of luminescent and earthy that shows the divinity of the earth.
© Robert WK Clark