Beyond Belief
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Genesis: Exploring creation and revelation through the lens of art.
Was “AC – testplayer copy”
Helène Aylon
Bulging Spread, Central Break, 1979. Linseed oil on paper adhered to Plexiglas. 72 in. x 95 7/8 in. Collection SFMOMA, gift of Lisa and David Tillinghast. © Helene Aylon/Licensed by VAGA, New York.
In the Beginning
(of the Creative Process)
The Hebrew Bible begins with God creating “the heavens and the earth” in what appears to be an orderly, linear fashion. But later Jewish mystics took a more humanistic approach, suggesting that the cosmic birth process was more difficult, chaotic, and surprising than God expected.

Helène Aylon’s work, which emerges out of feminism, evokes the latter view. With Bulging Spread, Central Break, she suggests that chance, accident, and surrendering control can create something refreshingly new. In this video, Aylon discusses how she allowed her process to unfold organically so that the resulting artwork could “tell me something I did not know.”
Ana Mendieta
Ana Mendieta
Tallus Mater (Madre Tallo/Stem Mother), 1982. Ficus tree roots. 60 1/2 in. x 24 1/4 in. x 4 in. Collection SFMOMA, fractional purchase through gift and gift of Lenore Pereira and Richard Niles, and Accessions Committee Fund purchase. © Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York.
In Her Image
Cuban-born American artist Ana Mendieta used her body as both subject and canvas as she explored ideas about birth, life, and death.

In Tallus Mater (Madre Tallo/Stem Mother), Mendieta evokes the power of prehistoric fertility goddesses, especially those associated with Mayan and Native American spiritual systems. The ficus, or fig tree, roots with which Mendieta created this sculpture might allude to the Garden of Eden, a primary creation myth in Western monotheism.

In works from her Silueta series, Mendieta becomes one with the earth. In one performance, grass and flowers appear to emerge out of her body in a ritual evoking nature’s creativity and birth. Her 1974 performance series, Body Tracks, explores the connections between birth and death, connected by the symbolic presence of blood.

Mendieta’s work is also deeply influenced by Santería, a Caribbean religion that fuses aspects of Catholicism with religious themes from Native American and West African cultures. Santería makes intensive use of ritual, ceremony, and performance, which scholars like Mary Jane Jacob see as an influence on Mendieta’s work.

Bruce Conner
Bruce Conner
BURNING BUSH (C) September 3, 1962, 1962. Brush and ochre ink on paper. 25 5/8 in. x 19 7/8 in. Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase. © Estate of Bruce Conner/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Don Ross.
A Trip Through the Desert
Bruce Conner is known for his provocative assemblages of the 1950s and 1960s, made with unexpected combinations of everyday materials. The inspiration for his ink drawing BURNING BUSH (C) September 3, 1962, was not an object that he found, but a vision he had in the Mexican desert.
Conner was inspired by what he saw around him. Which of the following most inspires you?

See how others have answered.

The unexpected.
The beauty of the everyday.
Trying something new.
Relationships and community.
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