Thursday, September 02, 2010

Gettin' some culture

Promotional illustration of "The Book of Genesis Illustrated"
I took a mosey downtown the other day, just to look around on an idle vacation day, when I noticed that the Portland Art Museum is currently exhibiting comic-book artist Rick Crumb's illustrated Book of Genesis.  The exhibition shows the original black-and-white illustrations of all 50 chapters of the first book of the Bible (as depicted by Mr. Crumb).  You can read about the exhibition here.
Curiosity piqued, I paid the admittance fee and spent a good two and a half hours going over the extensive and exhaustive work, which includes every single word of the original scriptures (derived from multiple sources).

Crumb writes a thorough foreword in which he explains his sourcing and research and offers up a defense against the indignant howls of irreverence that are certain to arise.
The entire work is depicted in framed glass, arranged in rows that cover walls on two separate floors of the museum.

At first, I set about reading each word and studying the accompanying illustration, but the sheer volume of material convinced me that such was a futile effort.  I soon converted to scanning illustrations and reading what I deemed to be the most interesting stories:  the Creation, Adam and Eve and the (very bad) serpent, Noah and the Ark, Esau and Jacob, Joseph and his brothers. 

An example of Crumb's work (this is a French translation; the exhibit is in English)

I wish I'd had Crumb's illustrated version when I read the Book of Genesis for the first time.  This time around, I found that the illustrations helped me maintain focus on the text (whatever that may imply about our increasingly visually-stimulated civilization).  Some might find Crumb's illustrations to be caricatures, but of course, an artist can't be constrained by worries about offending people who live to be offended.

I enjoyed the exhibition and learned a lot from it.  Further the staff of the Portland Art Museum were courteous, helpful and informative.

Just another benefit of living in this rainy little city I suppose.

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