Some pieces of art just make you uncomfortable. Maybe it’s a movie or scene that hits too close to home, or a book about a particularly violent event (real or fictional) that makes you squirm… or a painting that brings up regrets or painful memories.

For Madalyn Gregory and myself, Marcos Raya’s 2000 painting The Anguish of Being and the Nothingness of the Universe made us feel ill at ease. So of course we had to discuss it! I’m excited to welcome Madalyn back on the show to talk about art. In this episode, we describe and interpret Raya’s piece, making personal connections along the way that surprised even me.

This episode was part of the Art Class Curator before we rebranded to Art and Self.

1:14​ – A description of Raya’s self-portrait

6:13 – Our initial reactions to the artwork and the various connections we see in the details

10:30 – How the painting puts the mundane of day-to-day life in perspective

13:37 – How Raya’s work reflects the messiness and complexity of life and space

17:46 – Madalyn shares an interpersonal interpretation of the throat area’s depiction

19:44 – The contrast between the cleanliness of the painting and the message it conveys

23:51 – A possible double meaning behind the cardboard imagery

30:55 – Another interpretation of the cardboard detail and how it relates to our life experiences

38:59 – The very personal realization that brought back my discomfort with the artwork, just as I started feeling more at ease with it

44:48 – The necessity of allowing your kids (and others) to see the humanity in you

48:26 – Madalyn and I discuss the depressive title of Raya’s self-portrait

51:55 – How my views changed on the artwork from beginning to end of this conversation

This episode was published before we moved the full show notes over to Transcript and full show notes are available at