June 29–September 9, 2012

The Jackleg Testament Part I: The Story of Jack & Eve

A computer is a tool, like a wood chisel is a tool. Everything depends on whose hand it is in. —Jay Bolotin

A Woodcut Motion Picture by Jay Bolotin

Start Times of the Woodcut Motion Picture

The genesis for this operatic film was a series of woodcuts produced by Bolotin in the late 1990s that prominently featured the figure of Eve. In the past, Bolotin’s woodcuts served as inspiration for works in other media (paintings, sculpture, and set designs); this time he wanted to “...make a piece that used the woodcuts directly, rather than being interpreted into some other form.”

Bolotin worked on The Jackleg Testament Part I: Jack & Eve for over five years, allowing the story to evolve gradually as he cut each block for the woodcuts, simultaneously working on the prints and the film. Therefore, the prints that make up The Jackleg Testament Part I are the source material for, as well as the visual diary of, the film’s creation.

The film begins with the figure of Nobodaddy (William Blake’s name for the God of the Hebrew Testament) who has made a mess of the world he created. He determines that the only way to set things right is to stage a play in the Theater of the Western Regions. Using Tarot cards to divine the future—and with the help of his sidekick the Serpent—Nobodaddy sends a Jack-in-the-Box (Jack) to lure Eve to Nobotown to participate in the play. As Bolotin says in his summary of the plot: “Disaster ensues.”

Images of the characters are broken up into their parts, which were scanned and animated digitally to make the movie. The prints include hand-colored narrative scenes and fragments of text, creating a compelling document of a rich and complicated story.

Image Credit: Jay Bolotin. American, born 1949. Nobodaddy from The Jackleg Testament Part I: Jack & Eve. 2005–2007. Woodcut. Smith College Museum of Art. Purchased with the Carol Ramsay Chandler Fund and with the fund in honor of Charles Chetham. Photograph by Petegorsky/Gipe.