Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.


Beuker, Marjan - VM - Cisca Ireland-Verwoerd

Marjan Beuker: Eve Steps out of the Sugar Paradise
Lead on, O King Eternal
by Cisca Ireland-Verwoerd
In this work by Marjan Beuker we see a display with two model railway figurines. The landscape consists of a papier-mâché terrain with trees made of green sugar confectionery on pretzels trunks. A pink icing river runs through the park-like countryside. The maquette is 47 x 27.5 x 35.5", giving us an accessible view of the whole situation. Sugar trees fill the entire right bank. On the left bank the lollipop forest only forms the backdrop, while in the foreground we have a scene frozen in time. Closest to us is a female figure. Clad in a raincoat, with her purse clutched to her side, this woman is about to step off the edge. Behind her, we see the figure of a man caught in the action of running. His open jacket is flapping, his tie is swept up, and with his right hand he holds his hat on his head to prevent it from flying off. The little models are unpainted, unchanged from their originally cast mode. They present themselves in gray, as if this scene is a still of a black-and-white movie in the otherwise colorful surroundings. Although the two people are rigid and monochrome, we can sense the emotion from their postures: the man is running frantically, the woman is on her way with determination.
How do we interpret this scene? Is the woman in this situation the original Eve, or does she stand for all women? Let's see where it takes us if we choose the first option. Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise after they had eaten of the forbidden fruit. Paradise had been a ‘sweet’ deal: a beautiful garden, interesting animals to play with, plenty of vegetables and fruits without labor, and the pleasant company of God and each other. All of that changed. In art the Expulsion is portrayed with the couple naked, sometimes desperate and crying (Masaccio), sometimes remorseful and pleading (Natoire), sometimes defiant (Adam) and apologetic (Eve) (Cesari). Here, Eve with all her cultural trappings -clothes and purse- leaves Paradise with a purpose. Maybe she has had enough of the accusations. Maybe she has come to terms with the crime and punishment, and now just wants to move on.
Where Eve is, there is also Adam. But why is he running after her? Does he need her forgiveness? "Wait Eve, I didn't mean it that way. Can we please start over again?" Or does he want her companionship? "Eve, wait up! I am nothing without you!" Maybe he wants to protect her. "Don't go there, Eve! I know a better way!" If it was Eve who first fell for the snake’s deception, here it is also Eve who takes the first steps to make something of herself in a fallen world. Ironically, in two of the three paintings mentioned above, Eve is slightly ahead of Adam as they leave Paradise.
If, however, this Eve represents all women, then why is she leaving and where is she going? Is the sugar paradise no longer sweet but cloying? Did the place that was meant to be ideal for Eve turn out to be someone else's ideal for her? Maybe she rejects the society which only offers empty calories of entertainment and virtual reality as she is looking for substance and authenticity. Finally, she has the courage to leave. There are rivers to cross and mountains to scale, but at least it is her own journey. Is the running man chasing her, trying to keep her from leaving? Or is this a helpful male figure - a father, brother, or good friend - who will give her a little money and maybe an address where she can go? And then again, maybe the man wants to accompany the woman on her journey. After this woman has made up her mind about the need for change, the man realizes what he will lose if she goes. Hindrance, help or hope?
Eve and Adam had to leave Paradise, but God did not leave them. He went with them through all their travails. Likewise, when the woman steps out of the sugar paradise, God will not leave her, but will lead her on into the future.
Marjan Beuker: Eve Steps out of the Sugar Paradise, 120 x 70 x 90 cm/47"x27.5"x35.5", sugar, rice paper, model railway figures and table, 2010.
Marjan Beuker is a Dutch painter and installation artist. She is fascinated by the elements water (referring to freedom and longing) and light (referring to warmth and belonging). They are often depicted in her work through transparency, floating images, reflections, distortions, movement and repetition. People and the world around us are an important inspiration to her. Marjan’s desire is to stimulate wonderment in the viewer, raising questions and presenting unusual vantage points. She participates in the organization Beroepskunstenaars In de Klas [Professional Artists in the Classroom] to encourage children’s involvement in the arts and culture. Marjan also draws attention to injustice through her work and her activities with the group Jubilee Campaign [“More than Human Rights: Jubilee Campaign fights for the people with no rights in this world, by placing God’s righteousness and truth over against injustice.”]
For a quick look at the three paintings mentioned:
Tomasso Masaccio, The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, 1426-27, (fresco, 82x35”) Brancacci Chapel, Florence:
Charles Joseph Natoire, The Expulsion from Paradise, 1740 (oil on copper, 27x20”) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City:
Giuseppe Cesari, The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, 1597 (oil on copper, 20x15”) Louvre, Paris:
Cisca Ireland-Verwoerd resides in Boston, MA, with her husband and son. She lectures and writes about her two favorite topics: mission and theology in art.
ArtWay Visual Meditation February 6, 2011