PortfolioExhibitions – Eve: First Life (1999)

What if you were the first female to walk the earth? No one to model behavior for you, and the male with you keeps sending you down the wrong path. This series of drawings, conceived in the format of “Stations of the Cross,” is a meditation on how Eve might have dealt with the complexities of life on earth, as we know it today. The clay effigy that accompanies the drawings was created with the same materials and methods Jan discovered during a trip to Gifu, Japan. Their giant black Buddha was built with a bamboo armature, modeled of clay, overlaid with pages from prayer books that were shellaced and then finished with black enamel. This exhibition was shown in Cincinnati, Kentucky and Munich, Germany.

  • This figure from a retablo at the Cincinnati Art Museum inspired my Eve series. Obviously inspired itself by the Boticelli Birth of Venus, albeit with some anatomical quirks, she seemed perfectly apt for accompanying Jan for a look at women’s roles through time.

  • Jan’s first drawing for the series was a stylized monochromatic study that would undergo digital errasures for manuel overdrawing with black pencil for the subsequent 14 images. This image sets the motion of the series, entitled “Last Day in Eden: Passing the Apple.”

  • In the course of the series, two egg tempera paintings of Eve were commissioned by private collectors.

  • “First Day Out of Eden: Eve Serves Adam His First Piece of Apple Pie”

  • “Forty-Sixth Day Out of Eden: First Agent Lands Eve a Recording”

  • “One Hundred and Thirty-First Day Out of Eden: Adam Invents Weapon Against Domestic Boredom”

  • “One Thousand One Hundred and Fortieth Day Out of Eden: Eve Writes the Book on Raising Cain”

  • “Five Thousand Five Hundred and Fifty-Fifth Day Out of Eden: Eve Blesses the Children as They Re-enter the Garden”

  • The sculpture of Eve was built following a method Jan discovered in Gifu, Japan. Their Black Buddha, housed in a temple that shelters its 2-story height, was built with bamboo, covered with paper, clay, and enclosed in an outer shell built up of thin pages from prayer books and lacquer.

  • When the form was bone dry, it was not fired, but instead covered with paper coated with shellac. A durable outer shell was built up with several layers, and finally “tatoos” of Bible verse were applied to the contours of Eve’s body. They recount her life as set forth in Genesis (male perspective) but to counterbalance these condemnations, Jan pencilled words that she considers internal feminine responses on the body: decisive, courageous, creative, beautiful, free.

  • detail of Eve’s face with collaged Bible verses on her chest and pencilled internal responses on her forehead.

  • Eve’s forehead has a third eye, and her enlightened perspective, through experience, that Nobody’s Perfect.

  • Eve’s body is marked by collaged words (Biblical) and pencilled words (personal) that dictate her life experience. Coiling on her belly is the quotation of God’s vow to multiply her sufferings and make her subject to her husband’s authority. Pencilled around that spiral: “Eternal submission brings more pain than birth’s labor – Mother.”

  • Borrowing from Hindu mudras (hand gestures) seen in sculptures of Buddha and deities, Eve’s hands express her blessings to her daughters: No Fear/Strength Through Experience in the right hand, and in the left a balance of Good Times/Bad Times by Perseverance Through Instincts.

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