This pair of richly-illustrated talks will consider the common origins and divergent and often convergent directions of the three faiths – Judaism, Christianity & Islam.
How have all three traditions adopted and adapted visual ideas from pagan art that predates all of them as well as from each other?
How have they transformed or reinterpreted the meanings of common symbols in order to express their particular sense of God and of the relationship between divinity and humanity?
How have abstract but important ideas, like certain numbers, been translated into concrete visual images, and why are these numbers important in each tradition?
Why do many synagogues have three doorways? Why do many large churches have five doorways? What was the early symbolism of the six-pointed star?
Why does the Dome of the Rock rest on an octagonal base? Why are most baptismal fonts octagonal?
How have Judaism and Islam visually expressed God without the possibility of figurative imaging and how has Christianity gone beyond the limits of figurative expression in visually articulating God? How is the legacy of antiquity and the medieval period still palpable in the era of both modern and contemporary art?
In the series:
Tuesday, May 9: Our Sacred Signs Pt. 1
Monday, May 15: Our Sacred Signs Pt. 2
Ori Z Soltes teaches art history, theology, philosophy, and politics at Georgetown University. He is the former director and chief curator of the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum. He has curated over 90 exhibitions on diverse ethnographic, historical and contemporary artistic topics, and written or edited 27 books and several hundred articles and essays, included Our Sacred Signs: How Jewish, Christian and Muslim Art Draw from the Same Source (Perseus Books).