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Art Exhibit Exploring Sacred Texts, Now Open at Santa Clara University

Updated: February 20, 2013

 
The First Writing, Cari Ferraro
 
Qu'ran Sura #34 Panel A, Sandow Birk
 
Shoonya (detail), Meg Hitchcock

Drawings from an English-language Qur’an that seeks to illustrate and make accessible 1400-year-old Suras for Americans today. A 27-foot “prayer rope” designed to reflect society’s unatoned sins. Sections of the Torah excised letter by letter and reimagined as a Hindu text. Bibles rescued after Hurricane Katrina.

These are among the thought-provoking and striking works of art on display as part of Santa Clara University’s Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education’s yearlong series of lectures, events, and exhibits titled Sacred Texts in the Public Sphere.

The art exhibit, Dialoguing with Sacred Text, an Exhibit of Sacred Texts Past, Present, and Future, is on display through June 30 at Santa Clara University’s archives and special collections gallery in the Harrington Learning Commons.

“Sacred texts breathe life into religious and secular culture in a variety of expected and unexpected ways,” said Fr. Michael McCarthy, S.J., executive director of the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education. “This exhibit explores and experiments with the form, meaning, and activity of sacred texts of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”

The exhibit features 15 artists including:

  • Renée Billingslea, a Santa Clara University professor of art and art history, who created a “Bible Shirt” containing interspersed Biblical text and buttons.
  • Sandow Birk, whose drawings are part of a comprehensive project to transcribe Qu’ran Suras in English and illustrate them with scenes from contemporary American life.
  • Mel Day, an interdisciplinary artist, who created a “study guide for experimental contemplatives” in the form of fabricated books that navigate spiritual practice.
  • Daniel Essig, who created a mixed-media book structure that incorporates unusual woods, handmade paper, found objects, fossils, and mica.
  • Sarah Filley, whose work of a 27-foot prayer rope will be on display on the second and third floors of the Harrington Learning Commons.
  • Terri Garland, who created portraits of prayer books and Bibles pulled from flooded churches after Hurricane Katrina.
  • Lisa Kokin, whose work incorporates buttons, thread, found photos, and altered books to subvert original meaning, such as the text of the Jewish Kaddish overlaid by Kokin’s mother’s last words to her daughter.

Additional artists in the exhibit include Seyed Alavi, Will Deutsch, Donald and Era Farnsworth, Cari Ferraro, Amy Hibbs, Thomas Ingmire, Richard Wagener, and Katarina Wong.

Curator Michelle Townsend, a veteran of the Bay Area art community, said the exhibit sought to answer questions such as: What matters most about sacred text, the object or the content? Is a sacred text still sacred when it is altered or transformed?

An artist-reflection roundtable will be held on May 23 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the St. Clare Room of the Harrington Learning Commons.

For more information, please visit: http://www.scu.edu/ignatiancenter/institute/exhibit/index.cfm