Monday, February 26, 2007

Bible Study Deconstruction/Reconstruction


When "L"ife walked me into Grace Episcopal Church in New York City in 1994 I was inspired by its beautiful architecture and stain glass windows. After my first visit I returned regularly in the afternoons to sit quietly, to meditate in the church. It had been several years since I had spent any time in a Christian church but because my spirit was undeniably moved in its sanctuary, I decided to become a member of the church and to dedicate myself to the stewardship of its urban sanctuary. Eventually I became the director of the flower guild and arranged the flowers with the hope that their beauty would touch the hearts of those seeking sanctuary (as I had done) in their busy and sometimes troubled lives.

The day I decided to become a member of Grace Church, I opened a Bible in the pew and read the reading for the day. Years before, I had shut the Bible in anger and sold it in a yard sale. The reading for the day was exactly the chapter I had been reading when I had slammed the Bible shut and thrown it on the floor! I guess I needed to take a second look.

Since that time I have regularly studied the Bible. For this show I have chosen to "alter" my first "study Bible" that I purchased in New York City, March 7, 1995. It is the College Edition, New Revised Standard Version, THE NEW OXFORD ANNOTATED BIBLE With The Apocrypha, An Ecumenical Study Bible, Completely Revised and Enlarged. I have torn it's over 2,000 pages one at a time from its binding and shuffled the pages so that the Bible is completely deconstructed. I have taken some of the torn pages and further fragmented them into smaller torn pieces to make a papier-mâché mask for the cover. The mask is a mold of my face, it is a self-portrait of a woman, like it or not, whose life has been consciously and unconsciously influenced by the Bible.

I did not like the mask I made from the fragments of my first study Bible and made a second mask from torn fragments from an older Revised Standard Version that I bought at a used book sale at Goddard College during my first MFA-IA residency. I guess the college was throwing out this old Bible that someone had marked in as they had studied it.

After 12 years of study I still am intrigued by this ancient book and all its inspiration and controversy. As a kid I memorized the 23rd Psalm and the Lord's Prayer and up until I threw down the Bible in my adult life, the stories of the Bible inspired me. In spite of my resistance and all the criticism I have levied at organized religion and its historicizing of the "One True God", the stories and theology of the Bible still inspire and guide me. I live in an age when it would be easy for me to let it go. Truthfully, there is a resistant part of me that hopes that through the study of the Bible I will find a reason to let go of it, but so far that has not happened.

So why, if I think so much of it, have I torn the Bible apart? Well...I want others to read it and make notes or draw on it in it's presently Postmodern deconstructed, fragmented state so that one day I can reconstruct it into its original canonical form that is "illuminated" by the study, comments and drawings of others. Also, by shuffling the pages so that there are no favorite and familiar "books" to turn to out of safe habitual thinking, I hope I have provided a way to approach the Bible with fresh, brave eyes, and an open, and creative mind.

13 comments:

Christine said...

Cee:

Thank you. We certainly hope you will travel from Virginia to be with us for the artist's reception. Stay tuned for details.
Hugs,
Christine

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