The Contemporary Jewish Museum commissioned artwork by Sacramento-based artist Dave Lane to be placed in its soaring lobby space. The massive sculpture, entitled Lamp of the Covenant, is a 90-foot-long, six ton work suspended high over the heads of visitors. Attached to an enormous oval of steel are antique objects: world globes, light bulbs, tools such as nineteenth century apple peelers and blow torches, and various other objects that suggest the unfolding marvels of the cosmos.
Lane is known for repurposing antique steel farm and industrial equipment, transforming it into graceful, exquisite sculpture. His colossal lamps are an earthly manifestation of the vast, roiling system of the firmament. Lane is deeply interested in ideas of creation, how the lamp signifies the presence of the divine, and how light embodies the human relationship with the cosmos.
In Jewish tradition, lamps are the visible symbol of the relationship between God and man, of that covenant whose nature is also mysterious, deep and at some level, always changing and somewhat unknowable. Ner tamid is the Hebrew phrase that refers to the permanently burning light in the synogogue, both a place of learning and a sign of divine presence. By naming his work Lamp of the Covenant, Lane gives us a tangible, very human sign of the presence of the miraculous as it penetrates our mundane reality, utilizing the lamp as a sign of wonder, and the spiritual, that is always just over our heads as we pursue our everyday lives.
Major support for The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibitions and Jewish Peoplehood Programs comes from the Koret Foundation.