Joe Light drew artistic inspiration from the Old Testament and saw himself as a modern-day Moses exhorting viewers to adhere to high moral standards of conduct in order to achieve spiritual salvation. Beginning in the late 1970s, Light began to paint both sacred and profane images on and around his Memphis, Tennessee house to target the character flaws he perceived in both his neighbors and humankind.
Jealousy serves as an illustration of this common human vice and an abject lesson regarding its pitfalls, as described in the Old Testament: “Jealousy is as cruel as the grave: (Canticles 8:6). In Light’s depiction, a woman raises her right arm and moves forward as if to intervene in the impending confrontation between two male protagonists in the foreground. Their encounter is perhaps echoed by the dark diagonal hills that converge, and by the lush foliage that recalls the phrase “green with envy.” —Timothy Anglin Burgard