It's Bob Dylan's birthday today, and what better day to share my latest completed commission: "Visions of Johanna," a portrait of Dylan couched in the metaphor of the story of Jonah — they have both been called reluctant prophets, and they both have their visions.
The visions of Jonah came as he sat in the belly of the big fish which swallowed him. He had saved the fish from its destined death by the Leviathan, and midrash tells us that in return the fish took him on a journey through time and space — showing him the origin of the oceans, the path of the Israelites through the Red Sea, the beginning of breakers and waves, the pillars of the earth, and much more. These visions are represented by the textures and shapes within the big fish of this papercut, while it is behind these lines that Dylan’s visions are shown.
Represented through various salvaged papers, photographs, and textures, including pieces of The Bob Dylan Scrapbook, are representations of lyrics from Dylan’s “Visions of Johanna” — a handful of rain, the ghost of electricity, small talk at the wall, infinity up on trial, jewels and binoculars, the nightingale’s code, whispering and muttering...
There are fragments from the book of Jonah from a volume of Tanakh originally destined for ritual burial in the genizah. There are glimpses of album covers of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” and “Blonde on Blonde,” from which the song “Visions of Johanna” is taken.
There’s a piece of sheet music and handwritten lyrics scattered through the waves. There’s a bit of Dylan Thomas (from “Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait”), from whom Dylan took his surname. There’s a map, constellations, a reference to Woody Guthrie, a miniature figure of the prophet/musician himself... and more.
It is a raucous, wild, portrait of the artist through the metaphor of Tanakh and midrash, designed to illuminate Dylan’s character and encourage exploration of his lyrics and influence.