Shopworks: Jacob wrestling the Angel

This work is “in process”–again. Because over the years, I have attempted to render this story in sculpture three times. The story comes from the book of Genesis, and tells how Jacob, on his way to see his brother Esau, “passed over the ford, Jabbok,” and there, “wrestled a man  . . . until the breaking of the day.” In their contest, the man “touched the hollow of [Jacob’s] thigh,” putting it out of joint, but still he continued to wrestle. Finally, the man said, “let me go, for the day breaketh.” Jacob, however, demanded that the man bless him, first, which he did, bestowing on him the name “Israel.” To commemorate this occasion, Jacob “called the name of the place Peniel; for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” Many depictions of the event show Jacob wrestling an angel. So which is it: man, God, or an angel? According to commentators I have read, the story is very old, harking back to an era in which the belief in local gods or deities was common.

I definitely wanted to get a piece with some drama and energy to it. On the left, is the first version, developed over a period of perhaps four weeks. Both figures are in “Old Testament” dress, which was basically a square of fabric, stitched up both sides, with holes for arms and head. I like this style of dress, for sculptural purposes, because of its simplicity, but decided last night to give Jacob “contemporary” dress: pants, shirt with rolled-back sleeves, and tie blowing back over his shoulder. I might have to clip back his hair, too. I don’t think I need stick to the story, in favor of a larger meaning: a sudden, revelatory encounter. The whole sculpture is really cantilevered, and will require a base large enough to offset this. More images as this piece continues to “emerge”!