In “Women of Mystery, Men of Prophecy: Biblical Images” at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, Janet Shafner explores the stories of the Hebrew Bible, portraying its characters so that they have resonance in a world far from Eden. Shafner sees many parallels between our own times and theirs, evidenced by the prevalent themes of war, rape and love. “What I was painting,” she told the Forward, “was exactly what was going on today. There are messages that these figures from the Bible have for us.”
Among the 36 large oil paintings is “Esther and Mordechai.” Here, Shafner depicts Mordechai beseeching Esther to plead with Haman for the lives of their people. The Jews are saved, yet Shafner tops the painting with a lunette littered with abandoned shoes, which serve as “a metaphor representing subsequent genocides,” she writes in the book that accompanies the exhibit, published by the Jewish Heritage Project with commentary by Ori Soltes and Rabbis Jill Hamner and David Sears.
Shafner, 71, who lives and paints in New London, has been both a Yaddo fellow and a Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture fellow. She served for three decades as the director of the Allyn museum’s adult art program, and her work has been shown at a number of museums, including the Yeshiva University Museum, among others.
Shafner began this biblical series in 1988 and has yet to run out of material, obviously enjoying her exploits as both a painter and a Jew.
Lyman Allyn Art Museum, 625 Williams St., New London (exit 83 off of I-95); through June 8, Tue.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; $5, $4 seniors and students, free members and children under 8. (860-443-2545)