This stitched monoprint is a narrative art work that tells a Biblical story. Jael, the female protagonist, plays an important role in the story of Israel’s wars with the Canaanites, described in the Book of Judges 4. In her tent, after a fierce battle, she kills Sisera, a Canaanite general. Jael’s deeds are also recounted in the poetic Song of Deborah in Judges 5; the song may be the earliest poem in the Hebrew Bible.
After Sisera flees the battle with the Canaanite, he goes to Jael’s tent. Jael greets him, invites him in, covers him with a blanket, and, at his request for a little water, gives him milk. He asks her to stand at the entrance of her tent and send away anyone who might want to enter. After he falls asleep, exhausted from the battle, Jael takes a tent peg and drives it through his forehead into the ground and then shows his dead body to Barak, the Israeli general and Sisera’s nemesis, who has arrived at her settlement in pursuit of the enemy general.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE HEROINE
There are unanswered questions:. The listener to the Biblical tale, seeing a general at war come into a woman’s tent, fears for the woman, not for the man. Yet when the outside world of national battles comes into her domestic space, Jael takes up a weapon and becomes a heroine. Her actions are not explained. Does she act out of loyalty to God and Israel? or is she reacting she to General’ Sisera’s arrogant behavior? Did Jael wonder what would happen to her when he awoke?
Whatever her motives, the story considers Jael’s murder n the will of God. At the same time, it conveys the notion that being killed by a woman shames both the dead general and the live Israelite general–Barak–who had not slain him himself.
The stealthy heroine and the fierce warrior are dramatic inversions of motherhood. One offers maternal nurturing before she strikes; the other stands with the slain foe between her legs in a grim parody of birth.
ON EXHIBIT in CHICAGO 2018
My stitched monoprint, Jael Kills Sisera, is on exhibit at “Between the Seams” (Jan 19- February 10, 2018) at the Woman Made Gallery in Chicago (2150 S Canalport Ave, 4A-3, Chicago, IL 60608). I am so honored! What a fantastic place for Jael to land! The gallery’s vision is to ensure the equal placement of women’s art in the world.
ARTIST’S INTENT AND PROCESS
The work began with a monoprint of a dancing woman, perhaps dancing around a fire with her skirt swirling. I collaged the monoprint with images of a wise owl, a beautiful woman, a fallen warrior and an ancient statue (to represent the ancient story). I punctured the paper with silk threads to represent both Jael’s tent and the puncturing of Sisera’s skill. I laid round pieces of parchment on the monoprint, to represent the round wound made by the tent stake, and applied copper leaf to the wounds, to indicate the metal of the weapon. My intention is to re-consecrate the story of Jael, to share history, the image, and texture and to invite the viewer into the sensation of the sacred place where we create art.