Recitation I (2009) 40.5×29.5 inches. Gold leaf on book pages.

Quran means recitation. For Muslims, it is a sacred book and a pure embodiment of Mohammad’s message. It is also a vehicle for devotion and, as such, has been a focus for artistic embellishment through the centuries. Exquisite calligraphy is the most prominent feature of hand-crafted Qurans. Some are illuminated with gold leaf and are bound in covers made from tooled leather or painted cloth. Elaborate border ornamentation, Moorish stars, and other motifs are common. Even cheap, mass produced volumes printed on newsprint are carefully designed with ornamental borders and fancy flourishes–all signifying the beauty of its manifestation.

Recitation is fundamental to the Quran’s reception. As in Judaism, the distance between the book and message is the voice of the reader reciting. Jews murmur their sacred texts to themselves, Muslims recite them to an audience. To encourage proper recitation, some Qurans are embellished with instructive markers for breathing that say: at this point take a breath and then continue. This creates a kind of cadence in the language which is, in part, why Quranic recitation sounds so musical. Breathing markers can be printed embellishments or gold leaf dots or other signs.

In this series, I used circles of gold leaf to create a breathing rhythm over the text. In Recitation I, breathing is playful and erratic,  creating an uneven symphony of intakes and exhalations.

I am a librarian and artist living in Eugene, Oregon — where it is often damp and always green.