If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away---Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

M.C. Escher's Creation Series

Last week I visited the Portland Art Museum to see the M.C. Escher exhibit Virtual Worlds: M.C. Escher and Paradox. As I entered the exhibit the first woodcut prints I saw were of the Genesis creation story. I was unaware of this series of Escher's drawings. Like most people I was aware of his prints of transforming images from one figure to another using foreground and background, a hand drawing a hand, stairs ascending and descending from different angles and perspectives, and other optical illusions created by this mathemetician turned artist. But, I had never seen these depictions of the various days of creation.

The Days of Creation woodcut series was created in 1926-27 in Rome after his brother was killed in a mountaineering accident. Each of the six days is a unique creation. Pun intended. The artist as creator reflects the Artist as Creator. The First Day of Creation is an intricately drawn bird flying over a patterned circle of the earth. The waves in his Second Day of Creation (above drawing)become a repeating pattern of lines that reflect his later passion for interweaving patterns. The Third Day of Creation is a garden of plants against a wavey lined pattern of sky. The Fourth Day of Creation is a mirrored design of day and night side by side with each half reflecting the other like photo and negative. The Fifth Day of Creation is split in half with the top a sky with dark images of birds against a light sky and the bottom light images of fish swimming in a dark sea. In the Sixth Day of Creation Adam and Eve stand with arms around each other gazing over the goodness of creation next to an overarching palm tree. In Escher's Fall of Man Eve hold out a bitten apple to Adam, who sits on the ground with a hand on his head. The serpent looks like a giant striped lizard climbing down a large tree. It almost has the look of an Aubrey Beardsley print.

The Escher exhibit, which was a collection of works from the Portland Art Museum and other surrounding galleries, was a nice presentation of his traditional print images, but the creation series provided a new set of drawings from Escher I had never seen.

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