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Heart of the Reef, by Lee James Pantas

Painting #10 Heart of the Reef

Prints available at
artist's website

Fantasy Biology

The Heart of the Reef, painting #10 in my Liza's Reef series, is my vision of what exists at the very center of Liza's Reef. The centerpiece is a huge coral, a Giant Rose Genesis Coral, CoraDetail from The Heart of the Reef, by Lee James Pantasil géant rose de genèse. These corals are indigenous only to Liza's Reef, and according to the islanders of VanuaSemia, they have an important role to play in the continual rebirth of the stars, planets and comets that are seen in the reef.  Specimens over 10 meters in length are known to exist and legends on the island claim that this particular coral came to earth with the other life forms found only on the reef, and that they never die. Most people who have seem them relate that the outpouring of celestial forms occurs mainly at night, and is almost always attended by vast schools of  Rouleaux à Ailes Par Vert (Green-Winged Rollers), flying fish Detail from The Heart of the Reef, by Lee James Pantasthat swoop in from the far reaches of the Pacific.  The natives of VanuaSemia speak often of the brilliant blues of their bodies and the colorful wings as the Rouleaux skim along the waves, just like exotic tropical birds. No one know for sure why they seem to be attracted to the giant corals, it may be that they are feeding or it may  be as some of the legends claim, that they are  "true friends" (amis vrais) of the coral, and bring it joy by singing songs of the vast deep ocean as they fly by,  a place the coral can never go.

Below the Corail de genèse, to the right are two fish that are also found throughout the Pacific onDetail from The Heart of the Reef, by Lee James Pantas, Scorpionfish and Stonefish other coral reefs as well, the  potent Stonefish  and the well known Scorpion fish, also known as the Lionfish. Both the Stonefish and Scorpion fish are two creatures that have perhaps the most superb protective adaptations of any in the ocean. Venomous spines and great camouflage make this pair bad news for anyone who gets too close, and who would ostensibly do harm to the coral.  The benign expressions on these two however, in spite of their fearsome reputations, are typical of fish found on Liza's Reef, most of which seem happy and content. The Scorpion fish shown in the painting seems to be wishfully watching the graceful flying fish, wishing he too could fly!

The last element in the painting, which as an artist, came as a complete surprise, is the Valentine-shaped heart seen in the lower left. It showed up immediately  when I first poured the painting (see the section about my painting technique if you are not familiar with how I work) and from the very beginning was an enigma to me, an element way out of place in a painting of a coral reef.  A lone heart image, floating in the ocean, would seem to have nothing to do with a coral reef. However, near the end of the Detail from The Heart of The Reef, by Lee James Pantaspainting, when I was just about finished, and had added some detail to the heart, I went to see the movie " Pirates of the Caribbean -At World's End" ( I love fantasy movies by the way as you would expect). To my astonishment, which continues today, one of the main developments in the movie plot was the separation of the physical heart of one of the heroes (Will Turner) from his body, which was then stored in a box for safekeeping. Allowing this to happen to him was an act of sacrifice for Will, and by doing so saved his father. In return for this selfless act, Will was allowed by  Calypso, the ocean goddess, to still live. He had to however sail the sea for ten years as Captain of the Flying Dutchman, a legendary ghost pirate ship. Interesting enough, at least to me, ten years was the exact length of time I had set aside when I first starting this project to complete the paintings of  Liza's Reef.

The tie-in to the movie left me really wondering about the mystery of the creative process and how all humanity is really one being, and how energy and ideas flow back and forth in that unified field of consciousness we all share. But that's a subject for a book some day. Suffice it to say, after seeing the My father Leo Pantas, receiving honorary phD Degree at Pratt Institutemovie, the "heart in the ocean" in my painting now made  perfect sense to me. So this painting I am dedicating to my dad, Leo James Pantas (an industrialist and banker), who  was wise enough to let go of his own dreams of making a businessman out of me and give me the freedom to follow my own paths which ultimately took me into the realms of  science and art.  A great man, my dad! And I guess my heart really is in the ocean after all, which has fascinated me, like so many other people, ever since I was a little boy. People have always told me I wear my heart on my sleeve but it's really in the deep blue sea I think.