Intertwining Texts (Artistic Expression and Religion)

Last week, my friend Martha sent me a link to some of Meg Hitchcock’s work. I absolutely love it. In her text series, she very meticulously cuts out individual letters from one sacred text and rearranges them to form words and passages from other sacred texts. Her work strikes me as both intensely creative and controversial. Two things which make it super intriguing.  For example, the first two images below, from a work entitled “Throne,” are letters cut from the Quran and arranged to form passages from the Book of Revelation.

What are we to make of this very literal intersection of religious texts? In many ways, I view it as a stunning and quite physical evocation of the beauty of sacred words. There are certainly people who would object to what they may perceive as the destruction or mutilation of their sacred texts, and while these claims are not to be dismissed (indeed I would certainly invite further discussion on this point), I appreciate Hitchcock’s art in that it challenges us to search for a different type of meaning within these texts, outside of their structured language and format.

Her artist statement is as follows: “In my text drawings I deconstruct the word of God by cutting letters from sacred writings and rearranging them to form a passage from another holy book. I may cut letters from the Bible and reassemble them as a passage from the Koran, or use letters cut from the Torah to recreate an ancient Tantric text. The individual letters are glued to the paper in a continuous line of type, without spaces or punctuation, in order to discourage a literal reading of the text. By bringing together the sacred writings of diverse traditions, I create a visual tapestry of inspired writings, all pointing beyond specifics to the universal need for connection with something greater than oneself.”

This image is entitled “Repentence” from the Quran, made up of letters from the “Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdie.

Hitchcock’s images are beautiful in their geometric forms and often in their symmetry. What does it mean for sacred texts to speak to us aesthetically? How do our minds interpret and internalize these images? I like that her work challenges us (or maybe just me) to be creative in interfaith initiatives. Expressing religion artistically — how can this help us to connect with each other?

In many ways it reminds me of a documentary I saw last semester on Quranic recitation. Children of all ages are taught to recite the Quran in Arabic, even though many of them do not in fact speak or understand this language. Great meaning and beauty, however, is found simply in hearing the words of the Quran. Because Muhammad received the Quran aurally, reciting it and hearing it recited is thought to bring one closer to God.

Anyway, DO check out more of Meg Hitchcock’s work!

Expect some posts on Passover and Easter later this week (inshallah!).

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