We are pleased to present the work of David Pettibone as he explores the theme of "Hands" from the story of Jacob and Esau from Genesis 27:1-17.
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1 And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, here am I. 2 And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death: 3 Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison; 4 And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die. 5 And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it .
6 ¶ And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying, 7 Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the LORD before my death. 8 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee. 9 Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth: 10 And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death. 11 And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man: 12 My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing. 13 And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them . 14 And he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother: and his mother made savoury meat, such as his father loved. 15 And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son: 16 And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck: 17 And she gave the savoury meat and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.
I consider myself agnostic and initially had superficial reservations about taking on this project. Yet I have a deep respect for religion and immeasurable appreciation for the good that can come out of faith and tradition. I also have always felt an intense connection and fascination with the iconography of the Catholic Church and would never deny the effects of nearly two thousand years of christianity on an individual, growing up in a western society. My stance on religion, I feel, is important to mention as it hopefully gives the viewer insight into the approach I chose towards making my painting.
I was initially drawn to the theme of hands for many reasons. As a painter, I create with my hands. The handcrafted, in the age of speed and overload, is almost a symbol of defiance. To create directly with the hands is to slow the world down and reconnect with all that is physical and sometimes primal. An unmatched level of craftsmanship and much beauty can come directly from the hand. And yet, at the same time, the hand is responsible for so much that is ugly and destructive. The human hand can nourish and save life and it can just as easily, sometimes with more ease, take life away.
In Genesis, through his hands, Jacob deceives his own, blind father, Isaac, in order to obtain the birthright that was to be his elder brother’s- to rule over his people. And it was those same hands, with which he later wrestled with an angel, thus becoming “Israel”, a prince with God and a leader of the Jewish people.
I chose the moment of deception as the subject for my painting as it is a moment that expresses the extreme contradictions that the human hand is capable of. Mores specifically, I chose to focus on the hands themselves. As it may look to a dying, elderly man, blinded by age, obscure hands come out from the shadow and are laid down on a blood-red table. Instead of goat skin, I chose lambskin to cover the backs of Jacob’s hands. Traditionally, the Bible refers to believers as Lambs of God, and I felt that using lambskin would bridge the identity from Jacob to all people. As all of us are capable of using our hands towards both deception and graciousness.
David Pettibone is a New York based artist focusing extensively on the medium of oil paint and the portrayal of the contemporary figure. He was born in Phoenix, Arizona and received his BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and MFA from the New York Academy of Art. Upon graduating, he stayed on at the New York Academy of Art for one more year as a Fellow. He has taught painting at Brooklyn College and currently teaches drawing and painting at Marymount Manhattan College, 3rd Ward in Brooklyn and Brooklyn Artist Gym. His work is included in various private collections with continuous growing support.