Happy Valentines Day

I’ve just finished a small edition of tunnel books and it seems appropriate to post the images today. The tunnel books feature a linoleum cut of the Taj Mahal, an international symbol of love. I am one of the lucky people to cast my eyes on this monument in person. To get there is a challenge as one has to navigate through throngs of people in order to reach a massive entry gate. Passing through the gate, the impressive building reveals itself. It is considered an international symbol of love representing the love of a man for his wife. The idea that the man built this monument to one woman is a powerful thought.

Alongside the visual stimulation are the stories of what it took to build this marble structure including the quantity of materials, the 10,000 people who labored to construct the building and the 1,000 elephants necessary to move materials from far away places. I remember thinking to myself as I looked on the massive structure about these things in a different way. The quantities are impressive and assuredly it was no small feat, but for that reason, I began to wonder about the people who helped build it. I also wondered at the actual relationship between Shah Jahan, the man responsible and Mumtaz Mahal, the object of his affection. From reading the short narratives in the guidebooks, I imagined a man and his one true love. After a little bit of reading I found out that she was just one of his wives. My initial interpretation of what a symbol of love means to me is contingent on my life experience. Having multiple wives, though unfamiliar to me, was not strange then. In fact, it probably made the special bond between Shah and Mumtaz all the more significant. It is hard to have an absolutely representative view of a place or of people. In the case of this monument, does it matter? Thousands of people come to gaze at the building and find something special in what it represents.

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This piece uses the tunnel book structure to feature the lino cut printed Taj Mahal hand colored with wax pastels on handmade paper, flanked by two banners of text printed on Thai papers. The left banner reads “of all my wives, you were my favorite” and the right banner reads ” the labors of 22,000 men and 1,000 elephants could not escape my love for you”. A frozen scene, this piece allows pondering on the peripheral elements of an impressive monument in a way that is not found in the tourist guide books.

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