Sunday, October 4, 2020

Exodus 33:12-23 and Matthew 22:15-22: Identity

God says to Moses: I know you by name. (Exodus 33:12)

Jesus says to the Pharisees: Give to God the things that are God's. (Matthew 22:21)

Moses is recognized, known, by God. Moses knows that in some way he belongs to God. Jesus reminds those trying to trip him up that things that bear God's image (like us) belong to God. It's about identity. Knowing whose you are. Knowing who you are. 

Katarina Wong has explored themes of identity and personal migration through installations based on fingerprints. Wong's mother is from Cuba, and her father is from China, so the subject of migration and identity is a personal one for her. In The Fingerprint Project, Wong cast her friends' fingerprints in wax, which makes each individual piece completely unique. The wax casts are installed in patterns that mimic the migratory habits of birds and animals. The wax fingerprints sit on pins above the gallery walls within areas painted light blue. The artist added shadows by hand directly on the wall with sumi ink, traditionally used in Chinese painting, and powdered graphite. 

Katarina Wong. Fingerprint Project: Murmuration Unfolding, 2017. Wax casts of fingerprints, pins, sumi ink, graphite. 84 in. x 16 ft. x 2 in. California African American Museum. Photography courtesy of the artist.

The detail photo above includes the descriptor 'murmuration,' which is the collective noun for a flock of starlings. The artist's design makes visual reference to the shapes created by those birds as they are flying. Think about the fact that each of these fingerprints is one-of-a-kind, like each bird, like each traveler camped at Sinai, like each person made in God's image. Individuals but moving in groups, claiming their identity.

For a look at murmurations of starlings, click here.

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