Old Mountain

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
1987
Paint on wood
36.5 x 80 inches

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Along America's spinal river, the Mississippi, in Memphis lives Joe Light, who has channeled riverine force into a visual language.

Along America's spinal river, the Mississippi, in Memphis lives Joe Light, who has channeled riverine force into a visual language. Born a Baptist (and baptized twice), he adopted Judaism while incarcerated in the 1960s and has dedicated himself since to applying Old Testament theology to the contemporary world.

Waters frequently divide Light’s paintings' compositions and moral landscape, at the same time uniting cultural influences from throughout the world. The Red Sea brought safety to the Hebrews fleeing Egyptian bondage, then the Jordan demarcated their Promised Land and became the location for John the Baptist's activities. Light's African ancestors were forced to America across the waters of the Atlantic, and some of those Africans brought with them their river cults and beliefs in water's ancestral might, surely fortifying the Afro-Baptist conversion rite of immersion. After release from prison, Light's portentous search for Truth took him across the Mississippi into Arkansas, where he found Rosie Lee, his wife.