In the two years I’ve worked with The Saint John’s Bible, Heritage Edition at Santa Clara University Archives & Special Collections, I’ve noticed some of the conversations it begins about art, faith, Scripture, and the imagination.
So for the current exhibit in our gallery space, I was asked to put together some of these materials. At the same time, we were offered CIVA’s traveling exhibit of the works of Japanese Christian printmaker Sadao Watanabe.
The result is Art Interpreting Scripture: Characters in and Creators of the Bible. And the catalog just came in!
We’ve divided the exhibit in two sides: the Characters side, and the Creators side.
On the Characters side, we’ve paired Donald Jackson’s work from The Saint John’s Bible, Barry’s Moser’s woodcuts from The Pennyroyal Caxton Bible, and Sadao Watanabe’s washi prints. Here’s their three very different takes on the crucifixion.
Jackson is all gold, grace, the glorified God.
Moser is the suffering Jesus, warts and all, stark darkness.
I think of Watanabe somewhere in the middle. His Jesus wears a kimono. Inculturation is a big part of his aesthetic.
The Characters side of the exhibit enabled us to incorporate The Saint John’s Bible with the Watanabe prints.
For the Creators side, we focused on our Special Collections books, looking at how the book as an art form mediates visual interpretation of the Scriptures.
When you walk in the exhibit, this is the first case you see:
The lower book is the Mission Santa Clara Choirbook. Santa Clara University is on the site of Mission Santa Clara, one of the Franciscan missions. When the Jesuits got the land in 1851, this book was part of the mission library they inherited. It’s one of our best sources on liturgical music in the California Missions. It’s also big, heavy. The cover is metal plated. The pages are vellum—animal skin.
I opened the choirbook to a liturgical selection containing some Psalms in Latin. Pair this with The Saint John’s Bible Book of Psalms, which opens with a two-page illumination containing symbols of church and synagogue. Some of these symbols are specific to Saint John’s Abbey, who sponsored this Bible.
The Psalms are prayed in church and synagogue. They are prayed at Saint John’s Abbey by the Benedictine monks in their Daily Office and their daily lives. They were, and still are, prayed at Mission Santa Clara.
Every book tells a story. These books of Psalms tell the stories of the communities that created them and used them for their piety and devotion. In an age of hypertext and iPad reading, sometimes we forget the importance of the materiality the book.
Enough preview. If you get a chance, do come by and see the gallery exhibit!