Vesper Stamper's work entitled "This is Not My Vineyard" responds to the theme of “Memory” and the passage of Deuteronomy 6:4-12.
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4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: 5 and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
Warnings against Disobedience
10 And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, 11 and houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; 12 then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
My faith has come to a place of simplicity over the past couple of years, distilling to the basic elements of the “Shema” (“Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one”), and the Greatest Commandment (“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and might”), both of which are contained in this passage, with the command to bind the awareness of the Lord’s presence and ways on the hand and forehead, signifying both the mind and the will/deeds. I grew up in a Jewish home, so these passages have always been familiar to me, but I realized that I had a superficial knowledge of their context. I was surprised by God’s matter-of-fact understanding of how quickly we forget Him even when we are in the midst of His abundance—an abundance that others before us had labored for, meaning that everything we think we have earned has been placed divinely in our lives in a long succession of events. Just as the Jewish practice of wrapping tefillin is a way of entwining the awareness of God in the mind and will, we are called by this Scripture to consciously entwine into our memories His deeds, past, present and future.
This is a self-portrait, which is a discipline I have been trying to keep this Advent as a way to understand Jesus’ coming into the deepest reaches of my own life in its present complexities.
My work draws on mysticism, by which I mean any person’s reconciling of their tangible surroundings and doings with the (I would argue) universal inner pull toward God’s personality. I respond deeply to archetypical story as found in dark and complex fairy tales, and the disparate impressions we see in our own nighttime dreams. I believe these can be seen as a window into the mystical nature of man. As with Biblical narrative, certain cultural symbols resonate with meaning, and I believe that at thirty-seven I am only at the beginning of my own understanding of them. In this sense my work is evolving with a guiding principle that I am only one person in a continuum of storytellers, and that I will be pursuing the meanings of these symbols well into my twilight years.
As an illustrator and storyteller, I feel a profound responsibility to communicate to my audience, beyond purely personal self-expression. This communication can be either on a visceral level or a clear exposition of subject matter, but as a Christian I believe I must be on guard against oversimplified dichotomies or propagandistic message-making. The best stories are those that have the most breathability—hence the fact that I am reinterpreting a passage which is around five thousand years old.
Currently I am about to enter the Master of Fine Arts program in Illustration as Visual Essay at School of Visual Arts, and am seeking agency representation. I am working on two illustrated novels, both of which draw on Celtic and Anglo-Saxon myth as the reality of the lives of ordinary women and girls who are reconciling tragedy with their own agency and identity.
Hopelessly lost among the wintry wardrobes of Pauline Baynes’ Narnia, Shaun Tan’s mysterious foreign lands, and the watery open spaces in Lisbeth Zwerger’s illustrations, Vesper Stamper’s calling as an illustrator began as soon as she cracked open Hilary Knight’s Cinderella and spent the rest of her childhood meticulously copying each graceful page. She earned an Honors degree in Illustration from Parsons School of Design, and, woven in with her visual work, Vesper is also a recording artist in the indie rock band Ben + Vesper, on the Sounds Familyre record label. Her career has spanned fifteen years, dozens of album covers, four picture books and countless other exciting projects. She brings a refined style and emotional depth to her work that goes beyond mere decoration to pay homage to the rich illustrative tradition from which she comes.
Vesper was named the recipient of the 2012 Lincoln City Fellowship for her upcoming graphic novel "The Sea-King’s Children," which will take her to the Outer Hebrides of Scotland this spring (2013) to research the book’s setting and folklore, and to write and paint for the book at the “edge of the world.” She lives in Jersey City, NJ with her husband, filmmaker Ben Stamper, and her two fairy children, who are grabbing the baton and can take an urban backyard full of dirt and recreate it as a world of wonders.