Negative Images

One of the collage techniques I have relied on is the juxtposition of color images with black-and-white ones. A subset of this technique is to take an old engraving and cut out the images of people, leaving only the outlines. The missing images are then replaced with abstract colored ones to create a surrealistic effect. Three pieces utilizing this technique are shown below:

Wandering Stars (2010) (22 1/2″ x 14 1/2″)
The topic here is the basically the same as in my previous posting: false teachers who infiltrate the church. Jude treats this subject in verses 8-16 of his short letter, much of which has the same language as in 2 Peter. Scholars are still arguing as to which author borrowed his language from the other.
Lost and Found (2006) (18″ x 14″)
Minimal use of the technique described above is used in this piece illustrating various parables of Christ (see Matthew 13, 18; Luke 15) involving lost or hidden items which are then found.
Watch (2006) (18″ x 14″)
This is a companion piece to the previous one, again related to teachings of Christ. However, this collage concerns his sermon involving the future found in Matthew 24 and 25. His admonition for his followers to “watch” has been widely misinterpreted throughout the years as teaching that a Christian should keep track of unfolding events so as to know when the last days are approaching. He is more likely saying that we should always be spiritual alert and not be caught unprepared since the Second Coming will arrive with no advance notice.

2 Peter 2-3

Some of my pieces are inspired by the physical materials I come across. One such example is shown below.

Peter Observes (2005) (19″ x 12″)
A friend had a craft hobby of cutting out letters from a sheet of plywood with a jigsaw to use in various projects. He gave me the leftover plywood scraps, leading to the idea for the piece shown above. The content is based on 2 Peter 2-3 in which the author rants and rails against the false prophets who have invaded the church (not unlike today).  In the process he references the Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The technique was created by pasting appropriate pictures on a piece of hardboard, gluing the pieces of plywood at the junction lines between the pictures, and then painting the plywood with acrylics so as to blend in with the adjacent collages. The result, which is a little hard to see in the photo, is to create a three-dimensional effect which confuses the eye. This technique relates well to the references in Peter to “irrational creatures, mere creatures of instinct,” “unsteady souls,” “gone astray,” and “driven by a storm.”

Jeremiah 29

In the 29th chapter of Jeremiah, the prophet writes a letter to the Jews in Babylonian captivity urging them to settle in their land of exile, build houses, plant gardens, marry and have children. He finally urges them to pray for the welfare of the alien land they are living in. Since we are all aliens in this world, Jeremiah’s advice would seem to apply equally to us today.

Letter from a Prophet (2005)
This assemblage was constructed in a wooden box that once contained drafting equipment. The diverse materials used include two leather postcards, several advertising cards, doll parts and assorted glass and metal pieces. Each of these included elements originally related directly to the passage in Jeremiah. However, today I can say with Robert Frost when he was asked about the symbolism of one of his lines of poetry, “Once only God and I knew what it meant; today only God knows.”

Small Boxes

Working on a small scale is sometimes just as satisfying as creating gigantic pieces, even though that goes against the current trend in art. Below are two examples of collage/constructions enclosed in wooden boxes no larger than 6″ x 6″ x 2″ when closed.

Crossing (2009)
Crossing (detail)
This construction made from cabinet hardware and corks commemorates a landmark event in  Jewish history, the crossing of the Jordan River led by Joshua.
                                                         

                                                          Not a Game Anymore (2009)

The piece above is based on a somewhat more obscure event from Judges 14. Samson attends a bachelor party with 30 of his fiancee’s friends and poses an obscure riddle to them: “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?”  They guess the riddle only by coaxing it out of Samson’s woman. In his anger, Samson kills 30 men of the town.  You will have to read Judges 14 to find out the secret of the riddle and the reason the men are drinking with a cow in my collage. 
The title refers to the tragic events that end the story and to the fact that it is constructed inside a portable backgammon game board. 

Exodus

One of my most ambitious, and only partially successful, art projects was to construct a closed wooden box picturing the events of the Exodus with collages on all six sides. In addition, the internal workings of the box would be a three-tier maze representing the wanderings in the wilderness. Successful navigation of the maze by a steel ball (dropped into the box through a hole in the top) could only be accomplished by knowing the Biblical story and studying the pattern of divisions in the colleged sides. Any false move in tilting the box would result in the ball dropping out through a hole in the bottom.

Unfortunately, the only one in the family (including myself) who was able to navigate the maze was my youngest daughter–by violently shaking the box until the ball magically exited where it was supposed to. Nevertheless, as an unusual piece of art it is still of some interest.  A few of the panels are shown below:

Exodus, top (1989)
The life of Moses from birth to the burning bush.
Exodus, side A
The Ten Plagues
Exodus, side B
In the Wilderness

Balaam and Simon Magus

The Old and New Testaments contain cautionary tales regarding those who, respectively, use a religious position to gain money or use money to gain a religious position.  Both of these problems continue to plague today’s churches, so it is a good time to be reminded of the stories of Balaam and Simon Magus.

Two Asses (2005) (24″ x 18″)
The story of the prophet Balaam is given in Numbers 22-24. He was paid by the enemies of Israel to prophecy against that nation, but everytime he tried, only blessings came out of his mouth. It took his jackass to alert him to the spiritual forces he was trying to work against.
It is probably difficult to see all of the details in the above collage picturing these events–and impossible to discern the fact that certain of the rectangular units (spelling out Balaam’s name in Hebrew) have a higher luster than the other units.
The Power Called Great (2005) (24″ x 18″)
The above companion piece takes as its theme the story of Simon Magus found in Acts 8. Simon noted that the apostles had been given the power to impart the Holy Spirit to believers through the laying-on of hands. He then offered money to Peter if he would share that power with him. He was naturally denounced by Peter, who replied (in the vernacular), “You and your silver can go to Hell!”
Simon’s name (in Greek) is highlighted through use of a glossier finish on certain of the rectangular units.The same basic technique is used in both collages– small collaged canvases are glued to a larger canvas background colored with acrylics.

The Witch of Endor

Last Desperate Measure (2010) (8″ x 10″ x 1.5″)
I Samuel 28 tells the story of King Saul’s attempt to find spiritual guidance after God has cut off all communication with him. This three-layered collage picturing the incident was created by gluing two wood-framed canvases front to back, cutting an oval out of the front canvas, cutting strips out of the second canvas, and gluing another collaged canvas sheet on the back of the second framed canvas.
The foremost layer pictures Saul’s futile attempts to reach God by the way of dreams or use of the urim and thummin. The middle canvas shows the Witch of Endor who acts as a conduit for the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel, pictured on the third layer.
There is continuing controversy regarding the vision of Samuel and whether God or demonic forces conjured him up. However, the story does serve as a cautionary tale regarding mankind’s desperate attempts to find meaning and guidance in the world apart from God. 

I Corinthians 15:32 and Acts 19:23-41

After a long absence from this blog site, I am ready to resume some new postings.

Paul makes an unusual statement in I Corinthians 15:32 that he “fought with wild animals at Ephesus.” This conjures up images of Christian martyrs in the Colosseum of Rome under Nero’s rule. However, if one consults the Book of Acts for events during Paul’s stay in Ephesus, it becomes fairly obvious that he is speaking figuratively of his battles with opponents of the Word such as Demetrius the silversmith (Acts 19:23-41).

These New Testament passages formed the inspiration for the piece below, a 15″ x 10″ collage in a wooden cigar box:

Metaphorical Monsters (2009)