“ABRAHAM: Out of One, Many” is a celebrated peace-building exhibition that originally premiered in Rome, Italy in 2019. It has since traveled throughout Europe and the United States.
The exhibition has been on hold through the pandemic, and Wyoming is set to host its re-launching. It will be on display in three locations throughout the state between March 20-May 28.
The exhibit is an artistic response to today’s climate of increasing prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination. The exhibition is organized by CARAVAN, an international arts non-profit affiliated with the Episcopal Church, and curated by Bishop Paul-Gordon Chandler, the Bishop of the Diocese of Wyoming and founding president of CARAVAN.
“I started CARAVAN in collaboration with a Muslim imam when I was living in Cairo, Egypt shortly after 9/11. It is an initiative to bridge different cultures and religions,” Chandler said. Its mission is to use the arts to foster peace and harmony.
“Out of One, Many” plays off the popular Latin motto in the U.S., “E pluribus unum,” or “Out of many, one.” The exhibit focused on what Jews, Christians, and Muslims have in common because of their shared ancestor, Abraham. Abraham’s name translates to “father of many.” Jews identify Abraham as their founding father. Christians trace the lineage of Jesus Christ back to him. Muslims revere him as a friend of God, a father of the prophets, and an ancestor of the Prophet Mohammed.
Abraham lived approximately 4,000 years ago, and was born in ancient Mesopotamia (current day Iraq). When Abraham heard the voice of God calling him to leave his home, he followed. After years of roaming, Abraham’s life begins to include stories more familiar to us, including the birth of Ishmael through Hagar, the miraculous birth of his son Isaac, and his willingness to sacrifice his beloved son.
Chandler notes that Abraham’s legacy is one of compassion, sacrificial love, and embracing “the other.” In the three faith traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, followers are referred to as the “children of Abraham.” He is seen as a model of hospitality, and welcoming of strangers.
“While in many ways it is a religious exhibit, in some ways it’s not. It’s really about living harmoniously,” Chandler said. He added that the arts are often an effective device in changing people’s misunderstandings and breaking stereotypes. Art can be transcendent, and speak to people in deep and visceral ways. Chandler believes it is an exceptional tool to address sensitive topics, and to create connection.
The exhibit involves three illustrious Middle Eastern contemporary artists – Quais Al Sindy, Sinan Hussein and Shai Azoulay — from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faith traditions. Each artist has created five paintings that focus on specific themes from Abraham’s life that can guide the world today in living harmoniously, and interpreting these themes for a contemporary context.
In Wyoming, the exhibition will be free to the public, and showcased in Rock Springs, Laramie, and Lander between March and May 2021. It will be in Laramie at St. Matthew’s Cathedral (Episcopal) between April 9–23.
In Rock Springs, it will be held at The Art Gallery of Western Wyoming Community College from March 20–April 3. In Lander, it will be showcased at the Fremont County Pioneer Museum from May 14–28.
The show will also serve as a catalyst for an array of diverse programming, such as an acclaimed Sufi concert inspired by Persian poetry, which will take place in Laramie. The events will also be livestreamed for anyone to access.