Monday, August 3, 2009

Altered Religious Texts

Are some texts too sacred to cut into new shapes? Is a holy book still holy if it has been so ravished by nature that it no longer resembles a book? Does God always speak through His Word, or are there sometimes moments of silence? These are just a few of the questions brought up at Altered Religious Texts, the thought-provoking new exhibit at the Museum of Biblical Art:

Sacred scriptures, hymns, myths, holy personages, rituals and the religious traditions to which they belong are among the many influences inspiring artistic expression. Altered Religious Texts explores the ways in which artists use the very pages of inspiring texts as the "canvas" for their work. Religious texts altered by human hands, including coloring, cutting, and adornment, result in objects with fascinating painting and sculptural presence. The hand of Nature may also alter texts, essentially transforming them into "found objects," which when presented by artists, are imbued with symbolic and implicative presence. Texts so altered frequently embody issues of re-appraisal, rejection, re-appropriation, or renewal apropos the artist's formative religious tradition and training.
This innovative contemporary-art exhibit features:

a small selection from Mary Button's Hymnbook Project, a fascinating look at race, religion, and literature;

Dean Ebben's Crescendo, in which sections of a book of music are cut out to represent climaxes in faith as well as moments when one does not hear from the Divine;

Miriam Schaer's Hands of Josephus I and Words of God Slip Through My Hands, in which the artist cut the holy book from her bat mitzvah into the shape of her hands;

and Terri Garland's Katrina Bibles and Prayer Books, actual Bibles that the artist found caked in mud after Hurricane Katrina, including one which was opened to the story of Noah and the Flood.

The exhibit opened last Thursday to a packed crowd. Three out of the four artists were on hand to present a few words on their artworks and to mingle with the crowd. Altered Religious Texts will be on view at the Museum of Biblical Art (1865 Broadway at 61st Street) through September 27 and is well worth the visit for making the viewer consider the beauty of religious texts as physical objects and the beauty that they inspire.


Anonymous said...

the one with the cut outs is really cool

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info, I will definitely go and view this exhibit.