September 30, 2005

Artist taps the mystical at Rockefeller

Rockefeller Chapel opened "Of Mystery and Magic: An exhibit by Victoria Martin" on Wednesday, September 28.

Victoria Martin, who works as an oracle as well as an artist, received a Master's degree from the Art Institute of Chicago in the late 1970s and her work has been featured on PBS.

The exhibit consists of seven paintings, two of which are large murals. Each piece contains illustrated religious text from various traditions. The work is written in ancient languages, including Sanskrit, Hebrew, and Greek, and the style of the text resembles that of medieval illuminated manuscripts. Martin has worked with scholars from the Oriental Institute and the Spertus Museum in order to ensure accuracy in the text of her paintings.

Martin said she tried to follow the Jewish tradition of spending more time on the text than the illustrations, spending two-thirds of her time on the text. Nor did she use any human figures in her illustrations, saying she thought it would violate the second commandment, which prohibits the worship of false idols. Instead, she created illustrations of trees, stars, and serpents.

Martin described her art as "religious art for agnostics" and said she believes that the exhibit adds to the atmosphere of the chapel, because it presents religious texts in "sacred languages," rather than the English that is used during services.

The exhibit runs until November 18, and can be viewed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day in the right wing of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, free of charge. Translations of the text are provided.