Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Clay Jars and Ancient Scrolls; a contemporary version

I'm finally putting "finished" on my new series titled QumranEleven: unearthed evidence.  This has been an ongoing journey for several months but one I have thorougly enjoyed and learned from.  Though not an archaeologist I have been gathering and filing articles and reading books that have been written about the unearthing of the ancient Scriptures I cherish so highly.  This series of paintings references these hand-written pieces of parchment and papyrus scrolls that were discovered in eleven of the Qumran Caves in Israel from 1947-1957.

Hence, there are eleven pieces in this series including a hand slab-built clay jar that I just completed after taking a pottery class in hand-building last month.  I'm delighted with the way it came out and even more delighted I can add another dimension to my work.  The clay jar is 17" high and 6" wide in bisque-fired clay.  The rolled scroll is the eleventh piece in the series which is three pieces sewn together in scroll-like fashion.

My process of art-making for this series was also a discovery for me.  Unlike most of my previous works, I did not "pre-plan" these fragments as thumbnails.  After reading and researching in books and articles about the Qumran Caves and the terrain and environment as well as viewing photographs of the land and fragments of the preserved scrolls, I began by tacking 3-4 pieces of paper on the wall in my studio.  The first brush strokes were automatic drawings of line and mark representing yet not translating the beautiful languages of Hebrew and Aramaic.  Then I quickly added color in order to break up the space and obliterate any marks I didn't want.  I continued refining and adding as I saw sky, land, crevice and rock emerge.  Some pages have many layers of acrylic; others were quickly finished and left.  The pairs were unplanned until I began to see one page flow into another. Below is the opened version of the rolled-up piece sticking out of the jar.

QumranEleven: unearthed evidence XI
acrylic on paper sewn with thread
14.75"x 28.50"

When I read about these findings they shed light on and confirmed the trustworthiness of God's Word.  To me they proved the long-ago existence of real people in real places who lived real circumstances.  They made Psalm 85:11 read more than stanzas in a prayer: 
Truth shall spring out of the earth ; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

As I lived with QumranEleven: unearthed evidence I-XI for several months, I realized my interest in the old and aged carries over into my personal life.  Perhaps it's my desire for antiquity and nostalgia that keeps me cherishing old things kept from my grandparents, parents, school days, early marriage or even children's books and toys from our children's childhood and a "little something" from every place I have travelled and lived.  Or perhaps it is because they are evidence of my life lived.  These old objects have endured.  They have roots.  They have outlived the trends and fads and they bring stability.  Likewise, unearthing the Hebrew and Aramaic texts is evidence of a people who tirelessly copied the ancient yet relevant words on parchment and papyrus in order to pass on the proof and integrity of the Scripture that is eternal. 
Heaven and earth will pass away
but my words will never pass away.
Matthew 24:35.

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