California-based sculptor Lynn Aldrich is known for taking common objects and repurposing them to create sculptures that encourage one to look at those objects in a new and different way.
Bread Line (1991) is a thirty-five-foot installation of freshly baked loaves, sliced up and arranged on the gallery floor in a straight line. The work requires one to walk around or to step over the line while, at the same time, the smell overwhelms one’s senses. The work’s title evokes both a literal queue of people waiting for free or subsidized food and the condition of extreme economic hardship that makes such queues necessary.
On one level, this installation continues the advocacy of postwar artists such as the photographer Dorothea Lange (1895–1965) who used images to highlight the effects of poverty, to bring attention to homelessness, and to generate charity and empathy within those who had the capacity to help. Interpreted within this visual tradition, Bread Line holds in tension themes of plenty and want, abundance and lack. To represent the colloquialism literally is to present us with an irony: the thing so desired (bread) has been used abundantly to represent those who are in need. For bread to be used in this way, excess is necessary.
This same tension between abundance and lack in relation to bread is present in Deuteronomy 8. In the wilderness, the Israelites lacked and were provided with the ‘gift-bread’ of God. Manna, in its daily provision, was a constant reminder of utter dependence (v.16). As the Israelites move into ‘a land where [they] may eat bread without scarcity’ (v.9 NRSV), they are instructed in the right response in order not to forget the Giver of bread. After you ‘eat your fill’, they are told, then ‘bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you’ (v.10 NRSV).
Put another way, worship guards against the amnesia that can follow satiation.
Brueggemann, Walter. 2001. Deuteronomy (Nashville: Abingdon Press)
Dyrness, William A. 2001. Visual Faith: Art, Theology and Worship in Dialogue (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic)
Lynn Aldrich: Uncommon Artist, dir. by John Schmidt (Biola University, 2016) <https://vimeo.com/135776541> [accessed 30 March 2020]
Pizer, Donald. 2007. ‘The Bread Line: An American Icon of Hard Times’, Studies in American Naturalism, 2.2: 103–28
8 “All the commandment which I command you this day you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your fathers. 2And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not. 3And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. 4Your clothing did not wear out upon you, and your foot did not swell, these forty years. 5Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. 6So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, by walking in his ways and by fearing him. 7For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills, 8a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.
11 “Take heed lest you forget the Lord your God, by not keeping his commandments and his ordinances and his statutes, which I command you this day: 12lest, when you have eaten and are full, and have built goodly houses and live in them, 13and when your herds and flocks multiply, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, 14then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, 15who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16who fed you in the wilderness with manna which your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 17Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth; that he may confirm his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as at this day. 19And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you this day that you shall surely perish. 20Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.