Dr. Bob Hieronimus’ Artcar

by David Ovason, as part of a forthcoming book

A few years later (by which time I had got to know the multi-talented Bob Hieronimus as a friend) he constructed his own sophisticated equivalent of the ‘Franklin wheelbarrow.’ This was what he at first called an Artcar, the decoration of which he designed in 2005 and painted over a period of three months, in 2006.1 Below, is a photograph of this Artcar, parked at Baltimore Inner Harbour.2

Many of the subtleties of the Artcar may easily be missed in a casual inspection. Perhaps the one graphic idea which links the car irrevocably with the esoteric tradition is the placing of the truncated pyramid, with the Eye of Providence, upon the door (below).

This detail is, of course, based on the motif on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, and consequently forms one of the roundels on the dollar bill. Below, I reproduce the image in bronze, set in the pavement of Freedom Plaza, on Pennsylvania Avenue, in the federal city.

In ancient times, the door – any doorway - was regarded as a sacred thing. Symbolically, a door marked the division between two worlds, no matter how banal the passageway, or how ordinary the entrance or the exit. One passes through a door when leaving the security of the home for the insecurity of the larger world. Equally, one passes through a door at Death, when leaving the material world for the unknown and perhaps unknowable post-mortem realm.

It is not surprising that the philosophers of old were inclined to invest the door with a particularly range of symbolism. For example, the ancient Egyptians had constructed a hieroglyphic which linked the idea of doorways with the mouth (the ‘door’ or aperture, through which speech issued) and with the birth-passage, through which humans are born into the world from the spiritual realm. This hieroglyphic, called re ru, represented one of the consonants of the Egyptian language, and was written:

When found in combination with other letters, the idea of ‘doorways’ was often expressed within the hieroglyphic. For example, it is found in combination with one of the ancient Egyptian symbols for the eye .3 This appeared in the Egyptian word mer-t, which also meant, eye:


In this case, the symbol is linked with the eye not merely because it completes the r-sound in mer-t, but also because the eye itself may be seen esoterically as a sort of doorway between two worlds. In such symbolism, the eye was regarded as being an extension of the brain: it marked that interface where the outer world of Light was mysteriously transmitted into the invisible inner world of Darkness – that is, into the maze-like cranium of the brain itself. By way of the doorway of the eye, the outer world was being continually transformed alchemically into an inner vision.

In European symbolism, the eye was often used in a similar way to the ru, suggesting the notion of an interface between the familiar world of experience and the spiritual realm, beyond such experience. This is one reason why the Eye – sometimes even the Eye of Providence – was carved on grave-stones, for the funerary stone represented, symbolically, the marker between this world and the next (below).4

The idea of the transformative power of the eye, at the interface between two worlds, is partly expressed in the Eye of Providence, above the truncated pyramid. This is the case mainly because the presence of the pyramid evokes the idea of the ancient hieroglyphics. In the particular symbolism of the radiant triangulated Eye above this pyramid the interface has a peculiar dynamic. The fact that it is represented within a triangle suggests that it is linked graphically, and even iconographically, with the pyramid form below. The triangle of Light is the capstone of the Pyramid, the spiritualized thing that completes it. The triangle, though built out of Light, is thus linked with the dark stone below: it is what the alchemists of old would have called the Stone that is not a Stone. It serves the function of the pyramid-stone, in that it completes the form of the pyramid, linking the layers of stonework with the Archetypal world.

In Bob Hieronimus’ Artcar, this division between the upper and the lower is emphasised by the horizontal moulding that runs the length of the car, and which he has incorporated into his symbolism. In respect of the Eye and Pyramid, this moulding runs between the upper triangle and the lower pyramid, separating and distinguishing them. One observes that the handle to the door is located in the upper, archetypal level, above this moulding, and level with the Eye. By this means, the idea of ‘opening’ is linked with the Eye within the triangle of Light.

As we have seen, the Eye of Providence which is triangulated on top of the truncated pyramid itself suggests a sort of doorway: it is as though the Eye serves as an interface, or doorway, between this material world and the realm of the gods, beyond.

The Eye of Providence is, of course, completing the structure of the pyramid, suggesting that the pyramid itself consists of a duality – of a material part, made of stone, and of a spiritual part, symbolized by the triangulated eye. This combined Eye and Pyramid exists in two different time-frames, in two periodicities. The lower world is made of a materiality which may give the impression of being permanent, but which will, by virtue of the natural processes within the lower realm, eventually turn to dust. The upper world of the triangulated Eye is a symbol of the archetype that is eternal. This spiritual Eye will outlast the material realm, for it is, by its very nature, immersed in eternity. It is from this realm of eternity that forms are born, for a relatively brief period, to participate in life on the material plane. The eye-form, or the ru, which is the basic shape of the eye-form, is symbol of this birthing.

It is this level of esoteric symbolism which explains why Bob Hieronimus should have placed the symbol of the Eye on the door of the Artcar – significantly on the same level as the handle to that door. It is the handle that permits one to open and close the door, in accordance with one’s own will.

By means of this detail of symbolism, the Artcar is periodically transformed into a symbol of Life, or of entrance into Life. Each time a driver opens the door and climbs into the car to drive it, he or she is acting out this symbolism. For a while – that is, for the period when he or she remains in the driving seat - they become the living Eye that guides the car. In other words, having passed through the Eye of Providence on the door of the car, they become the ‘eye’ of the car itself. Each time that driver stops the car, opens the door and gets out, that particular period of life has been completed.

It was with a similar symbolism in mind that the fishermen of the Mediterranean would carve or paint eyes on the prows of their ships (above).5 They knew that in sailing the seas, they were bringing to life an inert object, which was their boat, and participating in a life between two worlds, or two elements of Water and Air.

The ru symbol did not remain hidden as a pagan symbol amidst the architecture and artefacts of Egypt. It was adopted by the early Christian artists, to represent the similar idea of ‘entrance’, or the threshold between two worlds. We see it, below, on the tympanum above the main doors to the western entrance to the thirteenth-century Cathedral at Chartres.

In this image, theru is transformed into what the Christian symbolists called the vesica piscis – the ru-shaped oriole around the Christ. This symbolism was, of course, intended to portray Christ as ‘the Way,’ as the door into the spiritual world, but it also has the effect of suggesting that Christ may be seen symbolically as the pupil of the Eye, gazing down upon the world, below.

This notion, of the Eye being a guardian watcher, is further expressed in the symbolism of the Artcar.

There are two depictions of the Eye of Providence on this side of the Artcar: the second is in a roundel, just above and behind the rear wheel. If you draw a straight line from the pupil of this rear Eye and join it to the pupil of the door-Eye, you will find a most interesting orientation. This straight line passes exactly though the White House, on the plan of Washington DC, painted on the rear door.

The original design of the federal city incorporated the idea of such unimpeded lines of vision – of what Pierre Charles L’Enfant had called “reciprocity of sight.”6 The White House (originally, the President’s House was linked directly with the Capitol Building, by way of the original reciprocity of sight down a Grand Avenue, with the semi-humorous political notion that the two might thereby keep an eye on each other. This Grand Avenue was later called Pennsylvania Avenue. This particular reciprocity of sight was later spoiled by the locating of the Treasury Building, to the east of the White House.

1 In 2008, the Artcar – a 1984 300SD Mercedes Turbo Diesel - was involved in an accident, and Bob repainted the repaired car, completing it on 13 July 2008. He then renamed the locally famous vehicle, the Biodiesel “We the People” artcar.

2 The photograph was kindly lent to me by Bob Hieronimus, by way of 21st Century Radio. Bob generously gave me permission to reproduce the image here. Photo by Stuart Zolotorow.

3 For mer-t, and the related re symbol, see E.A. Wallis Budge, An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary (1920), I, p. 313a, and pp. 414ff, respectively.

4 The Eye of Providence on the gravestone was photographed in Eyam churchyard, Derbyshire, England: it is however a widely distributed symbol in graveyards.

5 I photographed the eye on a boat moored in the fishing village of Marsaxlokk, in Malta, circa 1990. The fishermen seemed convinced that the eyes helped the boat see fish, and thus improve their catch.


L’Enfant repeated this term, reciprocity of sight, in a number of his surviving letters and reports. See, for example, the Report he prepared for George Washington circa 22 June 1791, in readiness for his consultation with the President at Mount Vernon. The Report has been published by Elizabeth S. Kite, L’Enfant and Washington 1791-1792: published and unpublished documents now brought together for the first time, (1929), pp.52-58.