Jay Bolotin: The Book of Only Enoch is on view in the Harnett Museum of Art, October 14, 2015, through January 24, 2016. The art of Jay Bolotin (American, born 1949) crosses many disciplines, including visual art, theatre, film, literature, and music, but his true métier is storytelling. The University Museums presented a one-person exhibition Jay Bolotin: The Jackleg Testament Continues two years ago in the Harnett Museum of Art. One gallery of the exhibition was devoted to a work in progress, a preview of The Book of Only Enoch. Included were working proofs from the portfolio, process drawings for the animation, Kharmen, his prologue operatic animation, and the artist drew directly on the walls of the gallery, covering the walls by drawing images and writing lengthy passages of text. The installation was a preamble, and now the series of twenty prints is finished and this exhibition presents the complete portfolio The Book of Only Enoch. This is the latest episode in the artist’s ongoing Jackleg Testament, a multi-volume saga that is as all-encompassing for the viewer and reader as for the artist. In his new portfolio, Bolotin draws us into Only Enoch’s universe through text and imagery that engulfs our senses and imagination.
Raised on a farm in rural Kentucky, Bolotin’s childhood was filled with storytelling and music, both of which influenced his artwork. He studied art at the Rhode Island School of Design and served as an apprentice to sculptor Robert Lamb. In the early 1970s, he pursued his interest in music, working as a songwriter with Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, and Dan Fogleberg.
The personal and narrative quality in Bolotin’s work as a musician is paralleled in his visual art. The viewer encounters characters embroiled in psychologically intricate dramas, and these characters appear—and reappear—in multiple pieces, created in a variety of media. This interdisciplinary approach to his art has provided the foundation for Bolotin’s multilayered, performance-based works that include plays, operas, films, and a music-theater-dance collaboration.
In his art, he inter-weaves his Judeo-Christian creation stories and personal mythologies to better understand and to comment on the human condition. The story of Only Enoch is inspired by books of the Old Testament which are not included in the accepted version of the text. Enoch is a man “who went to Heaven and lived to tell the tale.” Bolotin renames this character “Only Enoch” who is the son of the only Jewish coal miner in Kentucky. In her essay for the exhibition catalogue, Dr. Kathleen Roberts Skerrett, Dean, School of Arts and Sciences, University of Richmond, states, “Bolotin’s work traces imagined stories that unfold in real time, contracting and expanding, like a jack-in-a-box. In Bolotin’s vision, imagination and reality are equally balanced, so that an impromptu gesture, however whimsical, is designed to stand up to the actual course of things.”
Organized by the University of Richmond Museums, the exhibition was curated by Richard Waller, Executive Director, University Museums, in collaboration with the artist. The exhibition and related programs are made possible in part with funds from the Louis S. Booth Arts Fund. A catalogue, published by the University Museums, is available.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015, 6 to 8 p.m.
6 to 7 p.m., Conversation, Harnett Museum of Art, Modlin Center for the Arts
“The Book of Only Enoch: A Conversation with the Artist”
Jay Bolotin, artist, and Kathleen Roberts Skerrett, Dean, School of Arts and Sciences,
University of Richmond
7 to 8 p.m., Opening reception and preview of the exhibition Jay Bolotin:
The Book of Only Enoch
Harnett Museum of Art, Modlin Center for the Arts
Image: Jay Bolotin (American, born 1949), II. Sunday of This Year, from the portfolio The Book of Only Enoch, 2015, woodcut and relief etching on Arches cover paper, 23 x 31 1/2 inches, Joel and Lila Harnett Print Study Center, University of Richmond Museums, Museum purchase, funds from the Louis S. Booth Arts Fund, H2015.06.03, © Jay Bolotin, photograph by Tony Walsh.