Zack Knoll

The religion department art display is visually stunning and drew me in simply through its vibrancy of color and pattern—which seems to be a standard in much Islamic art. I was very interested in the way that the Arabic text is transformed from language into intricate patterns and images via calligraphy. This was most apparent to me in the blue antique jar from Fez, Morocco. While I cannot read Arabic, and thus am unsure of how easy it is to read the calligraphy, the styling of it as a pattern printed on the jar transformed it from just text into an image that anyone could spend time looking at due to its intricacies and visual appeal. This trend of elaborate calligraphy seemed to permeate the entire collection. This technique transformed the words beyond being just words and turned them into imagistic borders, patterns, and, in some cases, the centerpieces of the work of art displayed.

My two favorite pieces in the collection were the group of four rings from Iraq and the protective garment from Turkey. What appealed most to me about these pieces was, again, the way they utilized text. The rings and the garments contained verses, and in some cases, full chapters, of the Quran. Because rings and garments are typically items people could use on a daily basis, the fact that Quranic verses were printed on them makes the Quran accessible in daily life. One needs simply to look at their ring to be transported to the Quran. Through the rings and protective garment with verses printed on them one can take the Quran with them everywhere they go. This speaks to the importance and prevalence of the Quran in everyday life; it finds its way into even the most mundane aspects of daily life, such as clothing and accessories, and elevates them into sacred entities.