A Curious Panel from “Jazz Trio”

During the last day of the exhibition at the Indiana State Museum, there was a panel from a portion of Jim’s Jazz Trio that really caught my niece’s, Allison Caplan, and her friend’s, Jennifer Saracino, attention.  The middle panel of the bottom line of the piece was comprised of what looked to be Egyptian hieroglyphics.  (Click on the photo to enlarge)

Portion of "Jazz Trio" as presented at the Indiana State Museum Exhibition

Part of “Jazz Trio” as presented at the Indiana State Museum Exhibition

Curious as to whether the hieroglyphics were actually a coded message, or if they were simply gibberish, led Allison, a Ph.D. student at Tulane, to do some investigation.  She reached out to Dr. Marc Zender for an interpretation, who then forwarded the information on to Dr. Melinda Nelson-Hurst, both of Tulane University.

Dr. Nelson-Hurst translated the panel as follows:

…it seems that it would translate (if one isn’t too literal) as something like “the boundaries of art (in the sense of craft) are unattainable without artisans.”  More literally, it’s more like “one does not bring the end/result of art/craft without artisans/craftsmen.”   I have a feeling that the modern intention probably doesn’t quite line up with how the Egyptians viewed art and craftsmanship, but it’s neat that James Spencer Russell either came up with this or asked someone to come up with it for him.
I think that at least the first part of the sentence might be a quote from literature, but I can’t place it.

As we have noted several times before, Jim was enamored with code, it was a part of his life, and it is found throughout his art work.  Being a voracious reader and student of language (he learned Arabic while he lived in Kewanna), it would be very interesting to know how Jim came up with the symbols for this panel of Jazz Trio.  One thing is sure, Jim’s art never ceases to garner attention and curiosity.

Jazz Trio, when assembled as Jim had intended, was approximately 400 feet long.  Jim had much of this piece installed in his home running from room to room.  Jazz Trio was made of separate pieces of various sizes that replicated iconic jazz symbols, artists, record labels and clubs.  Jim’s ability to cut and shape wood, and assemble this incredible number of pieces, showcased his creativity and meticulous craftsmanship.

Jazz Trio as seen in Jim's house in Kewanna

A small part of “Jazz Trio” (and Chico Freeman LP cover alternates) as seen in Jim’s house in Kewanna

Thanks to Allison Caplan, Dr. Marc Zender and Dr. Melinda Nelson-Hurst for their interest and expertise in making this post possible and helping us learn more about Jim’s art.

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