Elephants: Watch, Learn, Love: Michael Jackson, Mark Ryden and the number 7

I visited Robert Berman’s Gallery in Santa Monica for the Paid to Play opening show featuring rare art pieces Robert magically assembled from 1945-1985. Berman’s collection is an overview of the often overlooked Southern California artists rooted in illustration, commissioned to create imagery for record albums, magazines, advertisements, et al.  The genre is commercial but still full of innovation, technique and artistic expression.There was a nice sized crowd gathered at the entrance sipping glasses of pinot noir and tonic water. I made my way past a group of people and found myself starting at a painting I had never seen before. I stopped, absolutely in my tracks, when I saw a painting of Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley.  Before I even saw the small “Ryden” signature in the right hand corner, I knew it was one of his creations.

Mark Ryden's Michael Jackson painting

I’m a huge fan of both Mark Ryden and Michael Jackson so it was a genuine thrill to see a painting of MJ done by Ryden. By the way, Michael was a huge fan of Ryden as well. He commissioned Ryden to pain his 1991 Dangerous album cover. I was so taken with the painting that I drove home fast, and people who know me know I don’t drive fast, and wrote to Ryden. Not an email, I wrote Ryden an actual, old-fashioned letter. I hope he answers so I don’t have to guess about the meaning of his painting. He’s answered other letters of mine so there’s a good possibility he’ll answer this one.

It’s the most provocative of Ryden’s creations that I’ve seen. I believe the painting was done sometime in the early 80’s. It shows Michael as a rat and I think he’s depicted with Lisa Marie Presley; who eventually broke his heart when she changed her mind about having children with him. If anyone has any information about this painting, please leave a comment. I have written to various art galleries but I have not received any information.

Michael’s first #1 solo hit was Ben; a song about a rat. Michael loved rats and all animals from the time he was a young boy and had many as pets. Three year old Michael was even feeding a mouse by hand that lived behind the refrigerator at their home at 2300 Jackson Street. His mother screamed, Joseph would curse and and Michael would quietly slide away.  I’m curious why Ryden paints Michael as a rat. Was it because our society treated him like an animal that was part of a test tube experiment? How much fame can one person handle before becoming a bit of a caged animal having to create a self contained Neverland world so he wouldn’t have to go out and be mobbed everywhere he turned?

Michael’s lyrics had a spiritual message and his life a grand spiritual meaning. He believed in the power of numbers, as does Mark Ryden. Ryden said, “I love numbers. If I hadn’t pursued art my next choice would have been math or science. Unfortunately, the adage if you don’t use it you lose it applies. I am not where I was in college, but I still love numbers, math, and numerology, and it ends up in my art. Every number has a connotation and a specific energy to it. I keep lists of things that come in each number – 3 graces, 4 elements, 5 senses, 12 apostles, etc. Each number has a life of its own.”

Most MJ fans know about Michael’s belief in the number 7. On the cover of History, he has a little arm-band with three 7’s. In order for me to see it, I had to use an Agfa Lupe, which has 8 x magnification. I set up some lights to photograph the cover to show you the  “777”.

Michael Jackson - History CD cover - note the "777" on his arm band

The metallic plated leg guards Jackson wore during his 1996-1997 ‘HIStory’ World Tour had a raised number ‘7’ etched on the lap on either side. He even wore “777” during his highly publicized witch hunt-trial in 2005. Could his world-wide success have manifested in part because he lived by and physically incorporated his belief about 7 into his life?

One of the dancers in the Smooth Criminal video even calls out “7” at 2:55. By the way, Michael made the decision in tears to leave the church of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the filming of Smooth Criminal. He was given strict rules after the first day of filming and this was verified by his make-up artist/hair dresser. His options were to either leave the entertainment industry or the church for firing a gun during the filming.

Michael Jackson was quite verbal about his personal belief and faith in G-d. I’m wondering if he focused on ‘7” because it appears in the Bible many times.  The number of perfection is widely held to be the number ‘7’, God’s number. G-d rested on the seventh day according to the book of Genesis. Michael’s day of rest of Sundays consisted of a complete fast and he would dance until he could no longer stand. Could the 7 be completion of work? MJ had a strong work ethic instilled in him initially from his father Joseph and later from Berry Gordy, his “father” at Motown. The other idea of completion within the Bible comes from the death of Lamech who was apparently 777 years old when he died. This is the only occasion in the Bible where we see ‘777’ like this. The Apostle Peter asked Jesus how many times he would have to forgive someone who had done wrong against him. “I tell you, not just seven times, but 77 times” was Jesus’ answer.

“Dancing the Dream” is Michael’s book of poetry and his reflections of life; published in 1992. In it he wrote: “So the elephants march on, and every tread beats out words in the dust: “Watch, learn, love. Watch, learn, love.” Can you hear them? One day in shame, the ghosts of ten thousand lords of the plains will say, “We do not hate you. Don’t you see at last? We were willing to fall, so that you, dear small ones, will never fall again.” He understood the concept, the guiding principle of the sutras of the Age of Aquarius which is simply to Recognize the Other Person is You. He believed we could work together to make ourselves better, that we should treat each other with respect. Most importantly of all, he practiced forgiveness. He forgave his accusers Jordy Chandler, or rather Evan Chandler and Gavin Arvizo or Janet Arvizo, of all their proven lies.  He created soldiers of L.O.V.E.

In Another Part of Me, it feels almost as if he is a leader asking his foot soldiers to bring his message forward:

“We’re sendin’ out a major love

And this is our message to you (message to you)

The planets are linin’ up

We’re bringin’ brighter days

They’re all in line waitin’ for you

Can’t you see . . .?

You’re just another part of me

Another part of me.”

It is possible that Michael’s fascination and belief in 7 was his way of acknowledging the presence of G-d in his life and especially in times of personal trouble. He gained so much strength by his passionate belief in a higher power. Here are some more tidbits about the number 7 in regards to Michael.

— Michael Jackson was the 7th of 9 children.

— Michael Jackson signed his will on 7/7/02. (Personally I think the will was hijacked and perhaps even fake but that’s another blog)

— Michael Jackson’s memorial was on 7/7/09 … exactly years after the will was signed.

— Michael Jackson’s two biggest hits — “Black & White” and “Billie Jean” — were each #1 for 7 weeks.

— Michael Jackson’s three biggest albums — “Thriller,” “Bad” and “Dangerous” — each produced 7 top 40 hits.

— Michael Jackson was born in 1958 … 19 + 58 = 77

— Michael Jackson died on the 25th … 2 + 5 = 7

— Michael Jackson has 7 letters in his first and last name.

— His last 3 albums were all nearly 77 minutes in length: Dangerous: 76:58 History: 77:06 (Disc two) 71:39 (Disc one) Invincible: 77:08. This could be a coincidence since the length of cd’s in the nineties was around 80 minutes.

–Conrad Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter over the death of Michael Jackson on 11/7/11. Personally I think he committed voluntary murder.

-Conrad Murray was sentenced to four years in prison on 11/29/11.  9 – 2 = 7.

Michael believed part of his destiny was to bring joy to people as well as practice forgiveness over and over. He sang he was “Unbreakable” and said he had rhinoceros skin. I believe that his steadfast belief in G-d helped him through the unique struggles he faced as he climbed the ladder of success and was greeted by jealous people along the way; people who suffered from Tall Poppy Syndrome. Furthermore, I am certain racism was clearly at work. Marginalize the black artist, reduce his wildly successful economic power and ability to influence people as he was a cultural game changer. Maybe even destroy his assets i.e.: AEG/Sony catalogue because of the jealousy that Michael could wield such power.  These people’s biggest goal was to see that the poor Afro American boy from Gary, Indiana who became the most successful entertainer in the world, would fall from grace. Michael believed he was sent to earth as a mission from G-d. He said “I must seek truth in all things. I must endure for the power I was sent forth, for the world for the children…And my goal in life is to give to the world what I was lucky to receive: the ecstasy of divine union through my music and my dance…But I will never stop helping and loving people the way Jesus said to.”

How many performers have donated 300 million to charity? Michael’s genius talent was matched only by his caring, compassionate heart. A heart that loved and asked only to be loved.

Look at this emotional sketch he drew and included on the History album. I see sensitivity, creativity, sorrow. It feels like show business put him on a permanent time out from childhood where he is backed up to a wall with no way out. His drawing takes me into his soul and shows his loneliness, pain, longing and heartache. It reminds me of a Gottfried Helnwein photo.There is an impact I feel by staring at it while listening to Michael’s “Childhood” which he said was his most autobiographical song.  For me it was painful in a way, and I just wanted to wrap my arms around the little kid in the picture and play with him for hours. It’s as if he sketched his tears right into my heart…

Childhood drawing by Michael Jackson

Gottfried Helnwein photo MJ used on History for Little Susie

Advertisements

About hannahkozak

I am passionate about photography & have been making photos since I was a little girl. I have been a stunt woman for twenty five years. I have a passion for exploration, discovery, and escape. I dream of every place I seek to travel to. A recovering adrenaline junkie, I seek authenticity in everyday experiences. I love Kundalini Yoga,travel, books,writing and authentic, real experiences and people. I brake for squirrels. Que le vaya bien! View all posts by hannahkozak

15 responses to “Elephants: Watch, Learn, Love: Michael Jackson, Mark Ryden and the number 7

  • siusiu2503

    It’s really stunning to read your post about Michael’s belief and thought. Personally I don’t like the painting just looking at it because it painted Michael as rat (Ben) but with the analysis I begin to realise the meaning in it. Still stunning. I subscribed your blog. Thank you. From Taiwan.

  • Bonnie

    If you find out anything further about the painting will you let us know? I’m curious to know the meaning. You’ve made things so much easier for me to understand about Michael and the number 7 by the way you explain it. This was a really great blog Hannah. I’m glad I read it and I look forward to more. I am posting this right now on the site. Thank you Hannah. – Love, Bonnie

  • Bev (@MJangel2)

    Thanks Hannah … what an insightful article you have written!!
    Cannot say I like the artwork by Ryder, but you seem to have found a positive side to it … good for you.
    I on the other hand cannot.
    Michael may have liked rats as he did all animals, but Michael was not rat-like in character or looks in my humble opinion.
    I find it disrespectful to say the least.
    Would love to read his thinking behind it.

  • Poppy Wu

    Thanks for share this amazing paintings and found …..
    MJ is very great and remarkable …
    Not because of – all his creative performances showing …
    Great and mighty is that – all of his work behind it – his heart – really want to convey the spirit of ideas ….
    I say it is – is the heart of God. The idea of God …
    He uses God’s heart – and treat the – contribution – to the world …
    But he – is still a – live in this real world – we are all equally ordinary people …
    As is human – he can not be avoided – feelings – desire – pain and sadness ….
    MJ the meaning in my life is extremely important …
    I would to know ….
    Really belong to MJ-that part of the heart .. his own real true heart ..
    I too want a clear understanding of …
    Sometimes I will float a trace of hatred …
    Hate this world towards MJ all so unfair …
    Step by step to force the destruction of MJ .. .. Finally, let him …… Select forever silence. Closed ….
    Unfortunately, even more sad is …
    We must now
    From his left a little bit …
    To observe. Interpretation. guess his heart …..
    Forever … can not hear … MJ he himself said ……
    Hannah …
    I thank you for sharing and observation …
    You’re doing these jobs. Touched deep in my heart …
    I am very happy to be able to read your article …
    I look forward to “Mark Ryden” painting this picture ideas .
    Look forward to your future more subtle observation, found …
    Incisive analysis of MJ’s heart …
    Let us closer to MJ …
    Very meaningful and great work …
    Thank you again Hannah …………. LOVE………… POPPY. From Taiwan

    • hannahkozak

      Poppy, I do think Michael’s heart was as close to G-d as anyone could ever be. Yes, sometimes it feels as if he was treated so unfairly but as Michael himself said “The bigger the star, the harder the fall.” Thank you for taking the time to read the blog. I did a lot of research and it’s nice to know it’s appreciated. When Michael died I didn’t know how much his death would affect me until I started to read about who the man truly was; a caring, compassionate,kind, spiritual, sensitive, other centered person whose childlike nature resonated with children and truly embodied living for others.He didn’t have a mean bone in his skinny body. Michael’s life was about meaningful and great work, I am merely researching and sharing what I find with others in the hopes of vindicating his name.The media did such a grand job smearing his name. If we all do a little, maybe someday people will know the truth about Michael Jackson. I do it in my small way, it’s what I can do with these shares. Thank you Poppy. L.O.V.E. from Los Angeles.

      • Poppy Wu

        Dear Hannah …
        I and most of the children grew up in Taiwan – are not the same …
        The vast majority … are all just listen to Chinese songs …
        I was very young began to listen to Western music …
        Therefore it can be said that the … Michael accompanied me grow up …
        I love him not because of his songs and his performances and his achievements …
        For me … he is not artist. he is not an idol …
        In my mental … he is my family …
        He is the one …. and my soul homologous .. but .. live in a very distant family members …
        I rarely buy his album did not buy his goods .. might occasionally listen to his songs …. rarely watch his show ..
        But I will certainly care about any of his message …
        Very strange, very difficult to understand …..I just … feel ..his all ..and I am so close…
        In the process of growing up …
        Michael has been there by my side …
        I have always thought that the normal natural …… for granted …
        But …. When Michael died …
        When I can not control sad …. feel their own deep sorrow … I’d rather die ..
        I understand clearly .. he’s important in my life ..Is so heavy …
        Dear Hannah …
        I really think so ….
        You to Michael to do everything …
        Is indeed a meaningful and great …
        Because … Michael’s name to be vindicated .
        To really get the Justice and fairness …
        Indeed, it is very difficult. No easy matter …
        You said .. “maybe someday people will know the truth about of Michael Jackson.”
        Yes!
        This is faith to push me …
        In Taiwan. I also trying to make every effort in the …
        In fact …
        I will not English .. English is very bad … (I always use translation software…If the expression is not clear. You have to forgive me!^^)
        But I will try to all people…
        Convey all the positive thinking of Michael and spiritual ideas …
        Let many people because the media to discredit and thus misunderstood Michael …..can truly understand Michael ……
        My ability is not good. For Michael ..this is the only thing I can do…
        I will always do it. This will be the work of a lifetime …
        I hope we can keep it …
        Dear Hannah….
        You … for the Michael to do these things ….. I can not for Michael …
        I sincerely thank you so much …
        ……. …………………………………………..L.O.V.E ……POPPY.

  • Amaya

    Muchas gracias Hannah por este relato tan bonito, me ha gustado mucho leerlo, la pintura Mark Ryden no me ha gustado mucho la verdad, no conozco la obra de este pintor, pero ver reflejado a Michael a semejanza de una rata, no me hace gracia, creo que no tiene nada que ver con esa pequeña y gran historia de su niñez …. cuando Michael cuidaba y daba de comer a ese raton que había en la cocina de la casa familiar, espero que Ryden tenga el placer de contestar a su carta y le dé alguna explicación de porqué le reflejó así en su pintura.
    Lo del poder de la numerología y del significado del número 7 en el que Michael tanto creía, me he quedado sin palabras leyendo como está tan presente dicho número a lo largo de la vida y obra de Michael, algo debe de significar, pero creo que solo dios lo sabe.
    Un trabajo precioso Hannah, mis felicitaciones para tí, un artículo que me ha llegado al corazón, saludos amiga. De espana. Spain.

    • hannahkozak

      Me encanta que le gusto tanto este blog y que ahora conozco la obra de Mark Ryden. Yo se que muchas personas no le gusta esa pintura de Michael. Espero si el señor Ryden conteste mi carta y nos lo puedas explicar. El número 7 estuve tan importante en la vida de Michael. Gracias por sus palabras y si, este articulo era de mi corazón completamente. Un gran abrazo amiga en españa. Muchos saludos de hannah.

  • Martine Léonard

    Hannah, thank you for your blog and your judicious analysis.

    Many of the symbols appearing on the painting belong to the world of Michael. On 7, you make a brilliant analysis. The rat remember the song Ben. But as Michael child, put bread in his pockets to feed rats, Katherine explains in her autobiography.
    I haven’t seen other rats in the paintings of Mark Ryden, but rabbits and bees.
    A mix of poetry and hardness oscillates between admiration for the work and disorder to the sense that we can give his paintings.
    What is disturbing for me in painting with Michael is the paleness and sadness of the “rat” and next to the “heart Lisa” smiling, colorful and then glittering ring, the hope…. No child is born of this story .

    Martine from France

  • Yoly Leung

    I don’t understand the painting but certainly don’t enjoy having Michael painted in a rat. He’s never a rat … why?

  • Madgew

    All very interesting. Your deep love for Michael is evident in all the work you do about him.

  • sanemjfan

    Excellent post! I liked how you explain the meaning of the number 7; I also used those same explanations in some of my posts!

    Let us know if Ryden answers your letter! I’d love to hear his explanation of that painting!

  • Sarah

    I just came across your blog in doing some research on Mark Ryden. The MJ piece is pretty fascinating. Did he ever write you back? Would love more info on it and can’t believe there isn’t mention of it anywhere else on the internet. Though I could see why it might be kind of taboo for him to talk about it too much – what a juxtaposition to the Dangerous piece.

    PS I would assume this is early/mid-nineties, MJ and LMP weren’t engaged in the 80s!

    • hannahkozak

      I heard back from Mark Ryden but not regarding the MJ/LMP piece. I would love to know more about it but I don’t have any more information on it. Thank you god taking the time to read it.,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: