Rage of the Matriarchs
20" x 14"
The matriarchs of the Bible had contemporary rage. They suffered from infertility, jealousy, isolation and were unappreciated. They were traded, humiliated and ignored. As seen through a modern lens, we can relate to them as examples of fortitude. They came from a world where women were not white, they were brown and black. Their embroidery patterns represented their indigenous region, and so each woman has a unique patterned background. Each matriarch also gets a flower from the region (the Middle East) to mitigate her rage. The flowers are their inner souls, colorful and still blooming with beauty.
Sarah was a stunning beauty who married her older relative. Immediately after the marriage, they began their nomadic life in search of better land for their herds. Abraham twice lied that Sarah was his sister to entice two kings to favor Abraham’s land dealings, leading to her rape and an aborted attempt. Abraham further abased her by having a child with Hagar, her maid, after years of Sarah’s infertility. Finally in late age, she bears her coveted child, Isaac. According to Midrash, Satan was angry at Abraham’s willingness to heed God, so he told Sarah that Abraham would be sacrificing Isaac, whereupon the stricken Sarah let out three staccato cries of rage and died. This print is the moment before Satan’s approach. Hagar is going off into the wilderness as Abraham, and Isaac ascend Mount Moriah.
The second matriarch is not a passive object but has agency and strength. Rebeccah chooses to risk marriage to Isaac sight-unseen. Sadly, she ends up with a much older 40 year old to her 14, who is a somber and silent man. She suffers years of infertility and finally has a difficult pregnancy that ends with twins. It is Rebecca that conjures the trickery to give Jacob Isaac’s blessing. Her rage is at her silent and dreamy husband, her fighting children and her added burdens in maintaining their land as Isaac is meditating most of the time. In this print she is separating the fighting twins, slapping Esau and caressing Jacob’ head. The cyclamen’s nodding head is giving consent to
Leah: Globe thistles
Leah is the older sister, totally without agency, a pawn of her father and husband. Her rage begins when her father switches her for sister Rachel under the wedding canopy. During her wedding night she is humiliated by having Rachel lay under her marital bed speaking with Jacob for her. His fury for the deception only further humiliates her. Despite her fertility, he never treats her with love. She is forever shunned, second-class, longing for love, only used by her husband to bear seven children. Even her beloved sister resents her fertility and does not love her. Her emotionally sterile relationship is further stoked to a rage when Jacob uses the two handmaids as concubines. Leah gnashes her teeth in this print as the three women are coming up the hill in the background. The purple globe thistle is so beautiful in the dry plains but too thorny to pick for a bouquet.
Rachel is forced to witness her beloved Jacob making love to her elder sister and then forced to wait seven years to be his bride, only to find that she is infertile. Her rage at her sister’s fertility and at her beloved Jacob’s uncomprehending reaction to her jealousy mar her beauty. Here she has empty arms and copious tears of anger as she is surrounded by mandrakes which she got from Leah’s son in order to boost her fertility.
Dinah: Sea Squill
Only daughter of Leah, she is surrounded by her overprotective brothers. In her one attempt at freedom, she is overcome by a neighboring villager and either raped or consensually has a dalliance. In response, her brothers pillage and then kill the entire population of the village in vengeance. Dinah has no voice, has no agency and has no say in the matter. Her rage is seen as a madness. While her smug brothers continue with no care about her emotional affect. The sea squill flowers in autumn, it is used to denote the borders between farms as it gently glows in the moonlight of a late harvest.
Tamar is clever, levelheaded and resolute, although twice widowed to Judahs’ sons, she realizes that she will not be wed to the third son after years of waiting. She tricks Judah into a night with her taking his staff, seal and cord as payment. When she is heavily pregnant with his child, she presents herself at his court. His sneering dismissal of her promiscuity is quickly vindicated when she produces his personal goods as evidence that the child is his. Her fury is shown by her grim, almost bemused demeanor. In Hebrew, Tamar is the name for dates which have been a staple food in the Middle East since 7000 BCE. Not only is it treasured for its sweet fruit and the syrup it produces, but the palm leaves, and wood can be utilized as well.