After Brice’s death, envelopes bearing cryptic labels in his handwriting were discovered in his studio that read, “The Supreme Eye” and “The All Seeing Eye.” Inside were “notations” (the term Brice used for his postcard-sized drawings) that featured ‘icons’ of a single eye.
The Supreme Eye has appeared repeatedly in a variety of ancient cultures spanning continents. In all of them, it symbolizes supreme insight or the mind’s inner light—ultimate wisdom of seeing the essential “dualities” of life, not as contradictory opposites, but as polarities in a seamless continuum of inseparable, existential truths. The icon expresses the idea of great wisdom and understanding, of ‘vision’ in which the dichotomy of “inner and outer” is resolved and unified. It has been depicted in many forms and with many names throughout history: “The All-Seeing Eye”, “The Third Eye”, the ancient Egyptian “Eye of Horus”, the Buddhist “Urna” or the “third eye” sometimes depicted on Buddha, the Hindi “Eye of Shiva”, and the Christian “Eye of God” or “Eye of Providence”.
It began showing up in Brice’s work in the mid-1980’s, sometimes as a small motif, at other times as the main feature, and remained a key motif until his death. Whether understood as a function of a specific religion or as a general symbol of order throughout the cosmos, it has implicit metaphysical import.
It is a curious motif for Brice to use. Why did he—a non-religious westerner, born in New York to a Broadway mega-star, and who moved to a mansion in Beverly Hills during his teen years—become attracted to such a profound symbol and why so in the final twenty years of his life? What did it mean to him?
We can only guess; Brice never spoke about this icon, and so its appearance in his later work remains mysterious. What we know is that he was a deeply introspective man, who had an abiding personal and artistic interest in psychoanalytic theory and world cultures. Did he encounter the Supreme Eye in his extensive readings about psychology, religion, and culture or during his travels? We know he was fascinated by the writings of the Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) and the American comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell (1904-1987), both of whom explored the nature of universal, archetypal imagery. They and many others realized that a vast range of world cultures throughout human history produced strikingly similar, universal symbols, representing the same essential concepts. The Supreme Eye is one of these archetypal images.
However, Brice came across the All Seeing Eye, as he grew older and his art matured into an increasingly deeper vision of existence and of equipoise, the advent of this archetypal image conceivably evoked a loosely conceived notion of existential, spiritual, and emotional harmony. Whether just an idea—or a hoped for, or even a held belief—perhaps the Supreme Eye represented an understanding, acceptance and a unification of the existential tensions he expressed throughout his oeuvre between: men and women; birth/life and death; existence and non-existence; matter and spirit; the present and the past; time and timelessness.
Brice seems to have followed a personal, solitary path to some notion of divine omniscience. Perhaps his perpetual questions, experiences and comprehensions of life moved him to chart his journey, not with words or literal illustrations, but with iconography and finally with pictograms that attest to his secret, personal discoveries for any who also may seek to see, to know, and to accept the complexity of existence and the inevitability of non-existence. A Supreme Eye, indeed.
Below, Brice’s malevolent Supreme Eye seems transformed into a motif that expresses the opposite idea—anger and retribution. Is this a variation of the mythic Greek concept of the Furies perhaps?