Jacob’s Ladder


The goal to blog every week day has been overruled this week by the goal to make one small piece of art each day for 30 days.  My friend came up with this brilliant idea that she and I will set out minds and hands to buy a sketchbook and make art each day for 30 days and then at the end of the month we will meet and discuss our work.  I am so excited!  It’s really motivating to have accountability and to have a small and doable goal. (You can see her artwork here)

This is my first piece exploring the theme of Jacob’s ladder, the story from Genesis 28:10-19.  Here the “ladder” to heaven is a pattern of suspended flames.  The idea was to invoke the sort of dreams that the Mayans portrayed – mysterious ancestors speaking out of smoke.  I am posting this also as my entry for Illustration Friday’s word “Suspend.”

If you are wondering why I wrote “ladder” as if it’s some sort of doubtful word that’s because according to Robert Alter’s translation of Genesis there is a connection between Jacob’s vision and the step pyramids of the ancient near east.  According to Alter the vision was probably of a step pyramid with God at the top and messengers (angels) coming up and down.  This would be a common motif in Mesopotamia and it makes a lot more sense than a vision of a step ladder.  Not that it matters too much of course if the word is translated “ladder” or “ramp” – the basic idea is the same (the word apparently isn’t used anywhere else in the Biblical text).  The central message is that Jacob had a vision of, as he says, a “gate to God” and either way that message is expressed.

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