Meaning and Purpose: Chapter 12

 

Passengers, 2008, Steven Assael (b. 1957), courtesy the artist and Forum Gallery

Fallen Groom, 2015, Steven Assael (b. 1957), courtesy the artist and Forum Gallery

Steven Assael works allegorically. “Passengers describes a metaphorical journey between new and old civilizations, between the present and the past,” James F. Cooper informed us in the Newington-Cropsey Foundation’s American Arts Quarterly 26(3). The monkeys here are personifications of the distraction that the soul must conquer. In November 2015, Forum Gallery opened a show with Assael’s latest work pondering the nature of preparation and transformation. At one point working on this series of paintings, Assael made an oblique reference to the New Testament parable of the wise and foolish virgins, or bridesmaids in some retelling. The New King James Version tells it thus:

Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: “Behold, the bridegroom is coming! Go out to meet him!” Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise answered, saying, “No, lest there should not be enough for us and you.”

After describing the foolish virgins’ unsuccessful attempts to purchase oil in the market, the parable concludes with the warning: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”1 It is certainly a sign of the times that very few people recognize the story, which reminded its listeners of the necessity of keeping ready for revelation.

  1. Matthew 25:1-13.