Legends of Tanakh
By Dan Riis Grife
Coupland, Texas: Dan Riis Grife, 2007. Edition of 5.
Dan Riis Grife: "My latest body of work is entitled the Tanakh Series. It is a compilation of paintings, sculptures, and prints based on the weekly parchat (weekly reading from the Bible). It reflects the vocabulary of legend, faith, and struggle rendered in the rich colors of New Mexico. This work is inspired by the legacy of the crypto-jews [those who secretly adhered to Judaism while publicly professing to be of another faith]. These were among the first pioneers to plant fragile roots in the rich soil of the Rio Grande Valley."
Each of the images are based on the parchat (portion of scripture) being studied the week the work began. Each woodcut is accompanied by the scripture in English and in Hebrew (Hebrew calligraphy in fire crown characters). The third text element is the Midrash (commentaries on the Hebrew Bible) surrounding the scripture as interpreted by Grife. The book is structured to read right to left in traditional Hebrew book style.
Grife: “I sought out folktales and Midrash surrounding each subject in order to weave iconic symbolism into the work. Iconic symbolism has long been used as a device to identify the subject of characters in southwestern traditional painting.
"Symbolic elements are used to represent attributes or deeds of each character, thus serving as a pictorial narrative. This visual vocabulary enables illiterate populations to recognize the subject of the images.”
Included are the stories of Adam and Eve; Noah; Og, King of Bashan; Sarah; Jacob; Jacob and Rachel; Judah; Jael; David; Ezekiel; and Ruth and Naomi.