No art exhibition is perfect, but Ms. Buck-Hutchinson’s feminist revision of the biblical story of the Lot’s wife, Adit, is as close as one may come for many years. Adit’s Ode: A modest revolt is more than an art exhibition; it is an immersive, multi-sensory experience employing interdisciplinary techniques and a vast resource of media and themes that lead each visitor through an exploration of their own values and belief systems. The entirety of the show is constructed as a poem—including a poetic projection broken into three acts, such as is traditional in an ode, that correspond with the three sections of the installation.
The first room, Act I, is a vineyard of hanging IV bags with vegetation of various nutritional strains (strawberries, sweet potatoes, squash, green beans, etc.) growing from within. The artist introduces the first of many “prayer balls,” salt crusted spheres with medical syringes protruding resembling medieval flails. Adit announces her arrival in modern times in an audio/video projection cast through the vines of plastic. Escalating into Act II, we are confronted with hanging wall vessels crusted with salt, a young ram’s head filled with wheat grass accompanied by an IV drip. Prominently displayed is a dismembered arm, again caked with salt, from whose hollow center protrudes a flutter of pink chiffon. Adit’s ode turns to her fatal moment as she is changed and broken. Stepping into Act III, the poem reaches its climax and Adit describes her leaving the worldly realm. A bright white x-ray light blasts clarity to the small room and we are surrounded by the left over syringes extending from its, and nearly every surface.
Adit’s Ode is a visual and literal poetic revision of a classic tale from religious mythology. Feminists often employ revisionist methods to protagonize subdued female figures. Buck-Hutchison’s work clearly reframes Adit as a tragic figure, oppressed by the male dominated culture of Old Testament tradition; demonized as the polar sinner to the male hero much like that of Eve to Adam. The artist’s feminist approach to the religious subject is undoubtedly influenced by her rebellion against her own patriarchal religious upbringing. She confronts the misogyny of biblical mythology head-on and poses the critical question, “What if?”
In the Bible Adit is only referred to as Lot’s wife, and she is only mentioned two times—once when she is turned into a pillar of salt, and later by Jesus. A combination of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic texts provide her name and a fuller written history of Adit. The inhabitants of Sodom were known to be inhospitable to visitors. Lot had spent time with Abraham who influenced him greatly, especially with his generosity. When two travelers came to Lot’s home he invited them to stay and offered them food, which bothered his wife greatly. When he asked her to retrieve salt for the guests she went door to door asking for salt and telling her neighbors about the visitors. Later in the evening a lynch mob came to Lot’s home and demanded he turn over the two travelers. Unknown to Lot the two men were angels sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, and they warned him to leave the city and save his family, but they insisted none of them were to look back. Lot, Adit and their two youngest daughters fled, but outside of the city Adit turned around to look back upon her home and she was turned to a pillar of salt. The salt represented the nature of her sin and became her demise as she viewed the wrath brought upon the twin cities. Some texts state that was her punishment for seeing God himself.
In Buck-Hutchison’s research she found that the ancient Hebrew word for “salt” is very close to the word “angel,” which is problematic in its translation. The artist offers a scenario where Adit’s poor health caused a heart-attack during a time of great stress causing her to fall towards the city and disobey the warning not in unfaithfulness but accidental fashion. The transformation creates a new reading of the context in which the artist offers that Adit became an angel and now visits the 21st century, critiquing current socio-economic situations relating to food and medical treatment for the poor. The contents of the exhibition could lead to an entire dissertation on religious mythology, gender issues, history/herstory, and modern social issues related to poverty and health. The story Buck-Hutchison unveils is only the means to open the discourse. She hits on so many topics that any single visitor can take away at least one eye-opening aspect, which makes this such a successful endeavor.
– by Justin Germain
Adit’s Ode: A Modest Revolt
I have moved through to now, to you.
The salt of a former marriage still clings
like halos around my ears. I am not the woman you
thought you knew. A form tossed up from the sea, distinct,
there are many. Did you beseech my sisters
as to where I dared to evaporate like angels?
I am Adit, Eldith, Lot’s wife, mother
woman, healer, daughter, ageless.
I have plaited roots, incensed over balsam.
What remains unknown when arms stretch through golden sundials?
I know loss. My other daughters’ younger
faces still frequent my closed eyes. I paced the shade under our
pomegranate trees where we snapped summers
gone, mulled raisin wine, milling hours
into love. But the angel wrenched my arm
until I am a fig tree shimmying
caught between two needs. My eagle heart
is caged, talons splintering my chest as I implore
my people: My herbs! On the table – my Hawthorne berries!
I sacrifice money to the slick mud as I reach
squalling for help –for I taste my heart and see the blue in my buckling knees.
I recall nothing more. The basalt
heaved by wind fuels a fire. I lasted
an hour. Now I anoint seeds on altars.
for what has fasting brought to pass?
I ask, who has salted these fields?
In what minute is a decision consummate?
Varied are the branches you have for yield.
Do not worry of me. Wind does not abate.
My eyes are gusts, my bones flux.
I have long left my crystalline matrix.
– Cherie Buck-Hutchison 2014