the giant swirl, a commentary . . .

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on  Mary Zicafoose’s Blue Print Tapestries 
Blueprint No 1

Mary Zicafoose, Blue Print #1, ikat weft tapestry

30 years ago,  I watched a student drawing                                                                                              a big swirly oval, like a fingerprint, on a litho stone—an illustration for the Book of Job. The image has stayed with me: a visual echo of the voice of the Creator speaking to Everyman. Mary’s large Blue Print tapestries reverberate with the same authority and mystery. Twinned, her fingerprints speak of dualities, like the cross-roads crises of Job and Everyman, and the possibility for spiritual restoration when the individual comes to   terms with physical existence. Juxtaposed side by side, the fingerprints swirl like the orbs of our bicameral brains.

As single images executed in diptychs, the tapestries remind us that wholeness is an interface, a dialog. Mary writes that the ikat fingerprints are both symbols and signatures of the self; although she does not mention the Creator-Self, whose spirit moved (in orbital rippling sweeps, I imagine) upon the face of the waters, the universal and personal content of her fingerprints resonate with the image of Job and the giant swirl.

The hands of tapestry weavers are natural metaphors for the self. Selfies weavers here have tended toward naturalistic representations of hands, with the exception of a tiny symbolic hand used as an artist’s identity mark. Mary’s distillation of the individual human identity into a fingerprint (symbolic because of its essential, universal quality, although depicted with a high degree of realistic detail) expands on the idea of the hand as a representation of the artist, of a creator—and of any and every person.

While happy to make use of social media, some of us are still suspicious of a technology that automatically and indiscriminately broadcasts images of the unedited self. I am one of this group, yet I think it is possible that the Selfies phenomenon resounds a positive cultural need that transcends our doubts. Every day, news of the world asserts the maxim that war necessitates a mutual denial of the opposing team’s humanity. As ugly as this observation is, it explains much. In an increasingly interconnected world, owing greatly to social media and communications technology, it is increasingly harder to close our hearts to people of other stripes. Conflict is ever more a futile and lost cause.

The life span of the Selfies movement coincides with on-going U.S. involvement in wars in the Middle East. And, if the maxim cited by TV detectives, “There are NO coincidences”, is true, the human need of fighters on foreign soil to see and be seen by people at home is amplified in the global embrace of Selfies. The urgency to communicate in this broad, yet personal medium is a force for something like unconditional humanization, a backlash against mass mindsets that demonize the unknown other—mindsets necessary to things like hate-speech and war. Selfies are a statement against extremist thinking, words and acts. They are easy to create and to contribute, and their sheer numbers are key to why Everyperson—Job—makes Selfies.

The God of the Old Testament famously did a job on the life of Job, yet at story’s end Job has never stopped being human and God has never stopped being God. The iconic strength of the fingerprint-as-blue-print, an image of beginning, persists as well in both humanistic and religious contexts. The evidence is Mary Zicafoose’s fingerprint tapestries.

—margaret sunday 2016