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Mary Ann DeVine Sculptures: Pivotal Moments in the History of the Jewish People, Canaan

In 1992, sculptor Mary Ann DeVine was commissioned to create four panels on the theme of Canaan in the Torah. Each panel consists of a bronze sculpture against a mosaic background of granite and marble.

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel
In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestles with a being, which he refuses to release until it gives him its blessing. The man asks Jacob his name, and then says, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with beings divine and human, and have prevailed.”

Moses Parting the Sea of Reeds
In Exodus 13-14, the Israelites, in their final moments of generations of slavery in Mitzrayim (Egypt), are led by a towering pillar of clouds and fire to the shores of the Sea of Reeds with 600 of Pharaoh’s chariots thundering at their heels. They witness Moses, commanded by God, holding his arm over the sea as a fierce east wind splits the sea opening a passage of dry land so that “the Israelites went into the sea on dry land, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.”

Receiving the Ten Commandments
In the Jewish tradition, all Jews who were personally led out of Mitzrayim (Egypt), their children, their grandchildren, their great-grandchildren — every Jew then, now and in the future — was present at God’s giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses and the Israelites at Sinai. Each has been chosen to take on the responsibility and accountability to fulfill those commandments and all the mitzvot.

Aaron Before the Temple
Moses’ brother, Aaron, was the first high priest of the Israelites. Exodus 28 describes how Aaron and his sons are to serve the Lord. In this sculpture, the “breast piece of decision” is a focal point. In Torah, it is described as four rows of stones mounted as follows: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald; then turquoise, sapphire and amethyst; then jacinth, agate and crystal; and lastly beryl, lapis lazuli and jasper. The stones correspond to the tribes of Israel. When Aaron wore the breastplate, the names of the tribes of Israel were over his heart “for remembrance before the Lord at all times.”

DeVine (1935 –1996) was equally proficient in carving stone and casting bronze. Her work drew on her profound knowledge of the history of art, religion and mythology. Her works are held in the public collections of the Library of Congress, the University of California at Los Angeles and the Long Beach Museum of Art, among others. She was a 1984 recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant for sculpture. Her series at Hillside Memorial Park was one of the last that she completed prior to her death.

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