Wednesday, March 2, 2011
This is my latest completed papercut, titled "Reuben"; it's the first in a planned series of 12 cuts based on the Twelve Tribes (the papercut is 24" in height; click the image above to see it larger).
Reuben was the oldest son of the patriarch Jacob and matriarch Leah. I've represented the tribe with a mandrake root, based on the words of Bereshit (Genesis) 30:14: "Once, at the time of the wheat harvest, Reuben came upon some mandrakes in the field and brought them to his mother Leah." Mandrakes are a symbol of fertility and their roots often resemble human figures or body parts; Leah had been having difficulty conceiving again, and it is taught that Reuben was trying to help his mother.
The Tribe of Reuben is often represented with the figure of a man, and I've built this mandrake root out of comic book representations of flesh and skin -- hoping to convey the gnarled twistedness of the root and the pliant softness of flesh. Much of the flesh textures come from the Marvel comics character The Sub-Mariner, as an allusion to the words of Bereshit 49:4, in which Jacob calls his son "unstable as water." I won't get into the racy story that figures in the Jacob/Reuben conflict (it's a bit too juicy for this blog), but there's a lot of ambivalence over Reuben's character, and I wanted to express some of that attraction/repulsion with the layers and segments that make up the root.
The blue background the surrounds the root comes from a Batman illustration by Alex Ross -- Batman has his own mother issues, usually represented by a string of pearls at the time of her murder; I liked the conflation of Batman's desire to seek justice for his mother after her death, and Reuben's attempt to find justice for his mother while she still lived.