Chana Cromer, I Dreamed a Dream
You have chosen the media of textile art in your artworks on Joseph. Why have you chosen these materials for this exhibition?
As a textile artist, I see the story of Joseph as a story of textile and garments. The story's tension begins with Jacob's gift of the coat of many colors to Joseph. This makes Joseph's brothers jealous and angry. Jacob himself was a younger brother who received the blessing of the first born from his father Isaac, instead of his brother Esau, by disguising himself in his brother's garment.
The story of textile continues when Joseph's brother strip him of his coat and throw him into a pit. Then later he is sold into slavery. When Reuven returns to the pit and doesn't find Joseph there "he rent his clothes. And he returned unto his brethren, and said: 'The child is not; and as for me, whither shall I go?' ". Genesis 37:29-30 When the brothers show him the blood stained coat, "Jacob rent his garments, and put sackcloth upon his loins". Genesis 37:34
Even the story of Tamar and Judah which is sandwiched in the narrative between Joseph's being sold to the Ishmaelites and his arrival in Egypt, tells of disguise.
"And she put off from her the garments of her widowhood, and covered herself with her veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in the entrance of Enaim…" Genesis 38:14
In Egypt when Joseph avoids Potiphar's wife's advances "she caught him by his garment, saying: "Lie with me". And he left his garment in her hand…. And she laid up his garment by her, until his master came home." Genesis 39: 12-16
When Joseph is sent for by Pharaoh: "they brought him hastily out of the dungeon. And he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh." Genesis: 41: 14 When Pharaoh appoints Joseph his vizier it also involves a costume change: 'And Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck." Genesis: 41:42
So I had to explore why textile is so pivotal in the story of Joseph.
What made you devote long term creative energy to the story of Joseph?
Several factors contributed to my working on the Joseph story. "Joseph was seventeen" begins the narrative of Joseph. When I began to explore the story in 1996, three of my four children were teenagers. I saw Joseph as a teen in the midst of the turmoil of this age when a child looks like a grown-up, when the world beckons and tempts, all seems possible and open, when his character is still developing, he faces life inexperienced, sometimes over confident, sometimes impulsive, and sometimes confused. And then they throw him in a pit.
Secondly, I love that Joseph has the ability to change, that he develops in his story.
Thirdly, his story is a visual story full of images: coat of many colors, dreams, of sun and moon and stars, of sheaves, of a mysterious field, of the Nile, of grape vines and baskets of bread, birds, journeys, garment upon garment, one pit after another, colorful characters and passions.
What part does the Bible play in your art work?
I love the larger than life characters of the Bible. Jacob and Joseph are mythical figures, giant, tragic. One reads and learns some subject in the Bible and then when you return to the same passages, there is always a new angle, a new inspiration, a new turn of phrase that you see. The language of the Bible is so full in its succinct way of expression. Each word holds a world of interpretation. Visual expression gives me a way to explore the stories aspects in another dimension. It gives me a way to enter the text, explore the way to express it, and then return and read the passage again with new eyes.
"Sheaf: The Great Giver" 200
Painting, dyes, metallic pigments,
changeant fabric, 300 x 60 cm
Can you describe to us your artistic process?
I first approach the Biblical story without commentaries. I read the passage over and over. I look for choice of vocabulary, words that are repeated, the hinted emotions of the people in the passage. As I do this, I take notes and sketch in my sketchbook – images as they arise. These drawings help me to understand the text through my own experience. Often there is some parallel to my own life and this is helpful in the creative process. Then I look at biblical commentary to research the questions that have arisen for me in the reading of the text.
Some drawings will become ideas I want to develop into large works. At this time I am considering what materials, what format, what use of color or texture or size that will work for the idea.
For example, one question in the story of Joseph for me was why didn't the brothers recognize Joseph? Why did he have to say to them, "I am your brother"? They see the royal vizier and don't see their brother. I felt this spoke of layers of perception.
I wanted something transparent, something that would be possible to show several layers simultaneously.
I chose tulle in a light shade of grey. Visually, it was almost not there – the white tulle was more noticeable. Using this fabric I could paint strokes that would be "in the air". Then I could create a work of layers where pit, blood, trauma was hidden under the dazzle of the royal vizier.
Leah's Eyes 2012 100 x 60 collage of silks and velvets,
silk screen, painting, dyes, metallic pigments