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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
Enamel and spray paint on wood
48 x 96 inches
Collection of
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco museum purchase American Art Trust Fund and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Joe Light’s painting Dawn at first glance appears to be an indecipherable jumble of calligraphic forms, which the artists termed “Abraham’s writing,” after the Biblical patriarch. Closer examination reveals the inverted and reversed phrase “God of Israel,” a declaration of God’s pervasive presence and power, as well as a public proclamation of Light’s beliefs about the true path to spiritual transformation and salvation.

Dawn illustrates the Old Testament story (Exodus 14:1–31) of the Israelites who fled slavery in Egypt for freedom in Canaan. Pursued by the Egyptian pharaoh and his army, Moses parted the Red Sea with his staff (represented here by a vertical blue line), enabling his people to cross on dry land (symbolized by the flowers), while walls of blue water rose over them on either side. The painting’s title refers to the moment at dawn when God instructed Moses to stretch his hand over the sea, causing the water to flow back and drown the Egyptian army. —Timothy Anglin Burgard