Water and its manifestations—oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, pools, as well as the things that live in water—are recurring thematic motifs throughout Brice’s work from the 1940’s to at least the 1990’s. Brice did not speak or write about what attracted him to this natural element. However, the idea of water and the many meanings and associations ascribed to it reside eternally in the human psyche. Water offers a fantastic range of expressive associations—“Teaming with life,” “a flood of emotion,” “churning emotions,” “cry me a river,” “sailing into the wind,” “between the devil and the deep blue sea,” “a sea of troubles,” “No man ever steps in the same river twice,” and “the unfathomable.”
Water has also been a universal metaphor for the soul, for purity, and the spirit of God. Carl Jung claimed it to be a symbol of the unconscious (the shallow waters near the shore) and of the “collective unconscious” (the deep ocean).
Rivers may express ideas of life as a flow, of grand goals and destiny (to reach the source, or well spring, of a river such as the Nile), of freedom, or of movement. Since John baptized Jesus in the Jordan, rivers have been associated with rebirth. Indeed, our bodies consist more of water than anything else. We cannot live without it.
Yet, water may become dangerous. Perfect storms can capsize a ship, taking everyone on board down with it. Tsunamis can wash away life in the blink of an eye. Floodwaters can overflow riverbanks, destroying all that man has built. Rivers may also mark a divide between two bodies, separating them, and so become a metaphor for the near impossibility of “crossing over” to the other side, including the two distant ‘shores’ of the mind, i.e., consciousness and unconscious and, thus, stand for the difficulty and danger of attaining awareness and wisdom.
Other bodies of water such as pools may be crystalline and filled with fish or brackish and full of dead things. Thus, they can be associated with either awareness or vanity depending on what they reflect. Narcissus lost himself as the beauty of his reflection in a pool transfixed him.