The Sensation of Deception and the Prohibition of the “Graven” Images: On the Power of Image Making and Monotheism

By Shadieh Mirmobiny.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

As an art historian, I have always been intrigued by the power of visual imagery particularly by the role art has played in the implementation of power in the hands of organized religion. This compelled me to embark on a critical investigation of the issue of power within the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, particularly as it relates to monotheism. The results of this study to date will be the subject of this paper that focuses on the significance of an understanding rooted in the very three Abrahamic religions, which reveals a direct relationship between religion, art, power and secularism. Given the important role each of these three religions are presently playing in the formation of policies that affect the lives of millions of people in the Middle East today, I believe there is urgency in considering an alternative view that can contribute to a potential solution for the current crises experienced by many in the world. A critical view of the issue of image making can offer an opportunity to revisit the relationship between art and the Abrahamic monotheist religions; this can further stimulate a dialogue on other critical issues within these three religions. This paper will explore questions such as: what is monotheism’s concern with image making? Why was it prohibited? Why this prohibition did not stop the production of the arts within the three Abrahamic religions? Is there a connection between monotheism and democracy? If there is one, can understanding it have any impact on current affairs and policies?

Keywords: Art, Religion, Power, Democracy, Politics

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.181-202. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.667MB).

Prof. Shadieh Mirmobiny

Assistant Professor of Art History and Humanities, Humanities, Folsom Lake College, Folsom, California, USA

Shadieh Mirmobiny completed her undergraduate work in fine arts, and graduate work in art history. Through the M.A. program at University of California at Davis, she became intrigued by the influence of Near Eastern art and culture in the seventeenth century European paintings. Her thesis, “Persian Elements in Rembrandt’s Work: A Study of Seventeenth Century ‘Orientalism’,” was focused on seeking a new facet in the examination of the artistic exchanges between the Western and Middle Eastern cultures. As her interest in the “Islamic art” intensified, she started to study the art and culture of the Middle East on her own. Immediately after completing her degree, she began teaching at several community colleges. Following two years of research and study in the discipline, her interest in the “Islamic art” and culture consolidated in the form of a class she developed at Sierra Community College, which she has now taught for eight years, and continue to teach in addition to two other local colleges: American River and Folsom Lake College. Professor Shadieh Mirmobiny has published a text for this class that offers the breadth of information for anyone who is eager to begin learning about this subject.