The Wolf in Lamb's Clothing

Published on 26 January 2024 at 22:45

Medium: Watercolor on Paper

Date: 2023


The Wolf in Lamb's clothing


I remember clearly when I was age four that my father brought in from the barn a newborn lamb. This tiny animal was intensely bright pink.  The lamb had a little face and little hoofs.  My excitement was palpable, eliciting laughter from my father. Since that day, the thought of eating lamb has been unthinkable to me, as my mind always returns to that perfect, miniature animal. Perhaps in that delicate lamb, I saw a mirror of my own childhood innocence. The vibrant pink of the lamb, so vivid in my memory, is the same hue that colors this picture.


And then there's the gray – the color that comes to mind when I think of the wolf. Could it be that gray symbolizes the years with my stepfather, a time marked by emotional distance, heavy discipline, and violence? Gray was the only color my stepfather wore in those years when losing his business, a visual echo of our strained relationship.


In those same years, I remember the story of the wolf who donned lamb skins – perhaps many – to blend into a flock of sheep, a cunning strategy to ensure his survival. This image of the wolf in lamb's clothing, a defense mechanism to sustain life, resonates deeply with me. It's a stark reminder of the lengths one might go to for survival, a theme as present in the animal kingdom as it is in human interactions.


I am particularly drawn to images that embody dichotomy, where opposites in feelings or visuals coexist within the same frame. In this case, we have the wolf and the lamb, pink and gray. This juxtaposition suggests camouflage, contrasting the sweetness of pink with the heaviness or bitterness of gray. Such dichotomies create a powerful reverberation. This concept is echoed in a historical anecdote from Mexico, where the king of Tribe B, having married the princess of Tribe A, uses her skin as a disguise during an attack on her tribe. This act of deception for success is a deep-seated, unconscious memory we hold – akin to a wolf or wolf-like figure using the guise of an innocent, lamb-like person to achieve their goals.


Some animals are incredibly smart, a trait often explored by famous writers in their stories. These animals, capable of cunning disguises, remind me of an incident from my childhood. My brother, at the age of five, hitched our goat to a wagon and placed me, then only three, inside it. He climbed in as well. To our surprise, the goat, seemingly placid, had other plans. It headed straight for the coal pile and overturned the wagon, dumping us both onto the dirty coal. The goat's placidity was but a disguise; it knew exactly what it was going to do. This incident is a testament to the unexpected intelligence and cunning that animals can exhibit, much like the wolf in the story, skillfully cloaked in its deceptive lamb's skin.


In this artwork, the smart wolf is disguised, wearing a subtle smile that barely conceals his sharp teeth. He knows what he is going to do.  This picture speaks of pretense, a means to an end. It reminds me of the many characters in Shakespeare's plays who adopt similar tactics. We, as an audience, are drawn to the tension created by these characters, much like the tension in tragedies that arises from two irreconcilable positives. What will happen next? In this picture, the wolf, driven by the need to eat, must sneakily approach his prey. This dynamic of "Complexity, Dichotomy, and Unity" resonates with my own artwork and my desire to explore the tension inherent in such dichotomies. The wolf is not inherently bad; he is simply doing what wolves do. Yet, he wears the skin of a dead lamb to feed on another. This raises questions about the lamb's role – is it merely there to be eaten, or is there more to its existence? Perhaps the lamb, in its innocence and vulnerability, serves as a poignant reminder of the natural cycle of life and the delicate balance within ecosystems, where each entity plays a vital, albeit sometimes sacrificial, role.  


In contemplating the lamb's role further, it becomes clear that its significance extends beyond its physical presence in the natural world. The lamb, often symbolizing purity and innocence, also represents the inherent vulnerability in all living beings. Its role in the cycle of life is not just as prey, but as a symbol of the fragility and interdependence of life itself. In literature and art, it challenges the viewer or reader to consider deeper moral and ethical questions. It compels us to reflect on our own roles within the natural order and the responsibilities that come with our actions and choices. The lamb's presence in this narrative, therefore, is not just a passive one; it actively engages us in a dialogue about the complexity of life, survival, and the moral dilemmas inherent in the natural world.


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