A Dream of Paradise

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A Dream of Paradise

A Limited Edition of 36 Hand-Colored Serigraphs
22" x 30"

A Dream Of Paradise, which interprets the timeless theme of Adam and Eve, was first commissioned by the Baltimore Jewish Times in June of 1988 to illustrate a feature on Jewish Sexuality by Rabbi Harold Schulweis of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. The enthusiastic response to this image from Times readers and art collectors suggested its evolution into a limited edition serigraph.

In the search for an original, yet appropriate image for the first man and woman, it was important to suggest their innocent sensuality as well as the contemporary savvy of their descendants. Endowing them with a subtle sense of humor might allow them to survive the consequences of their choices.

Inspiration took the form of an unusual bedstead seen in Malibu, California, the frame of which was entirely constructed of trimmed and varnished interwoven tree branches. I imagined those branches vibrantly alive and willingly bent to support the crowning achievement of Creation. The delicacy of this construction suggested the ethereal ambience of the Garden of Eden,which Adam and Eve knew as Paradise for the lightspeed pace of a dream.

A collection of exotic, largely extinct flora and fauna surround the tree-bed arranged at the base of a palm tree. The images of the date palm and the figs held by Adam and Eve were chosen arbitrarily, for the identity of the Tree of Knowledge is unknown. The Midrash (books of commentary on the Bible) suggests that if the tree’s identity were disclosed, mankind would never have cultivated it, thereby upsetting the botanical balance of Creation. Furthermore, the perception of the apple, as the symbol of original sin, was largely a product of medieval imagination in Europe, since apples do not flourish in desert climates. The River, seen flowing beneath the bed, originates in Eden, and contains fish who are at once ancient and contemporary. Eventually, it divides into four rivers, the Pishon, Gihon, the Tigris and the Euphrates which flow towards the four corners of the Earth.

The notorious Serpent, portrayed here as part human and part reptile, slithers up the bedpost to whisper into Eve’s ear, illustrating the concept that corruption and temptation encroach upon human consciousness in sinister and subtle ways. As humans are capable of sinister behavior, so reptiles are endowed with a disturbingly subtle nature. The Serpents’ human countenance provides a convincing means for Eve to seriously consider his advice.

The final challenge in this vision of Adam and Eve was to endow them with a blend of intelligence, humor, and innocence. By their expressions, it is clear that the first couple, newly aware of their situation, are willing to enjoy it for as long as possible, thus portending the self-awareness which is our legacy. A fig-leaf comforter mercifully covers their nakedness as a sign of The Holy One’s mercy in the face of pain to come while two angels support a tallith (prayer shawl) over their heads as a means to His redemption in their future.

Text & Illustrations 1995 Ilene Winn-Lederer