Behind the Art: Guardians of the Temple

If ever there was an artist born to create a painting about the crypto currency revolution, it’s yours truly.

Please don’t think I’m saying that to boast. It’s just that I have a very strong background in economics, particularly regarding money and banking.

See, I have an honors economics degree with a special emphasis on the monetary system. For a time, I covered financial services as a newspaper reporter and also wrote a book about the savings and loan scandal of the late 1980s.

Not only that, but I got to spend some time with my hero, the late Nobel winner and noted monetarist, Milton Friedman. And on top of all that, as a financial analyst for my day job, I began recommending Bitcoin in the summer of 2013, long before it hit mainstream consciousness.

Now you know why the details of “Guardians of the Temple” are so important to me both personally and professionally.

Let’s start with the totems in the lower section of the painting. One Easter egg there is the date at the bottom of each one of the figures. That is the exact date that Satoshi released the code for Bitcoin and the blockchain.

Notice that each of these figures has a specific form of fiat currency -- basically paper money -- for the US, China and Europe, with the last two looking away from America.

All three of the “guardians” are wearing jester’s hats instead of crowns. In some ways, the word from central authorities like the Federal Reserve about paper money is really a joke. The dollar only has value because we say it does. Yes, it really is that simple.

There’s a snake slithering through the temple area, set off with a Bitcoin symbol. To me it has double meaning…is the snake an intruder or a protector…or a bit of both?

I gave the temple area a crenelated wall to drive home the point that the temple is a fortress under siege, noted by the blue river flowing through the painting but stopping right at the temple wall.

Few will get this reference, but the title of the painting comes from a book about the Federal Reserve that I found fascinating. That’s why in the white inset with specific cryptos we see a character acting crazy and labeled “Fed.”

Above the crypto symbols is the faint outline of a mushroom cloud. I wanted to make a point about the digital money revolution but kept it subtle so as not to overpower the rest of the ideas presented on canvas.

I wrote “don’t give me that do goody good bullshit” on the painting as a reference to the seminal Pink Floyd song, “Money.” I harken back to that on the left of the river with a black triangle, similar to what the band used on the album “Dark Side of the Moon.”

For me, the little dinosaur on the left of the river adds a nice element of humor. And it also to me accentuates the sense of the past with gold, silver and paper money, compared with the new decentralized world of digital coins.

To top it all off, I added the California lottery symbol to sort of suggest that government officials are duplicitous. At the time when I created Guardians, a lot of government officials were saying investing in cryptos was like gambling and yet, they turn around and sell lottery tickets to people who probably are just throwing their money away.

Now you know why I wanted to imbue the painting with a big sense of humor. To me, that’s a great way to capture a complex topic, make it fun and give the viewer a series of discovery experiences.

Take a look at the painting and a video with even more details.