Bowdoin acquires heavenly art exhibit
The walls are plastered with beautified saints and the harsh
realities of death. The images range from Solome looking serenely down
at the pale, lifeless head of John the Babtist to reverent and joyous
portrayals of the resurrection of Christ.
Besides telling tales from the old and new testaments, however,
these images hold clues to the way in which the artist, as a product of
his time, interpreted the bible and made it his own.
The new exhibit, "Biblical Images: From Creation to
Endtime," open from January 8 to February 24, 2002, located in the
John A. and Helen P. Becker Gallery of the Bowdoin College Art Museum,
is an endeavor organized by the Assistant Professor of Religion, Jorunn
J, Buckley, in connection with Religion 203, The Bible.
Buckley chose the images from the archives of the Art Museum
and tried to gather a collection that would represent both the stories
of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. Buckley was able to
choose from some 60 images that the Assistant Curator, Caitlin Nelson,
originally pulled from the archives of prints and paintings that the Museum
holds in storage.
Most of the images are by Christian artists, due to the
fact that the Jewish tradition does not entail the production of biblical
imagery. Because of this, Buckley urges her students not to simply accept
the images but rather to question every aspect of the imagery - to "look
for clues" because "everything is a symbol."
Details and symbols must be searched out and shall not be
discovered in a single cursory glance. Although the story being portrayed
in each picture may seem two dimensional, careful examination reveals
multifaceted tales of Christian values, historical values, and cultural
For example, one image features Moses, an Old Testament
figure, and a bronze snake wrapped around what looks very much like a
cross. This cross imagery is not a mistake and, in fact, discloses the
Christian viewpoint that the Old Testament prophesizes the coming of Jesus,
the son of God. This is obviously a very different interpretation than
that of a Jewish reader of the Old Testament.
Thus, each image is very much contrived to fit a specific
reading of the Bible in terms of what figures are most important and what
the symbols within the images imply. Many of the images are products of
the European renaissance - a time during which Bible imagery was the popular
subject of artistic endeavors. However, Buckley also tried to include
more modern images so as to allow students to understand the way time
periods influenced style and religious interpretation.
Buckley hopes that her students, as detectives, will search the images for important "clues" and subtle details - allowing them to more fully understand the Bible's rich texture.