This sturdy block of ceramic is a local puzzle, at once a deeply humanist and strangely mystical artifact. At about eight inches tall, its presence dominates a small table, and currently it is used as the altarpiece during Sunday services in the South Chapel, rotated according to the level of social importance or “woo-woo” factor of the service.
The top of the piece is decorated in a floral pattern reminiscent of Victorian wallaper. Each side depicts…something. The more mystical sides show multi-bodied beasts that resemble Cherubim from the Book of Revelations, although in fairness those angelic figures have many heads and one body. JMA’s creatures have a much more awkward time of things.
On the reverse side, emblems of science: a complex wave form, a child looking into a microscope against a field showing what she perceives though the instrument.
The choice of the Victorian-inspired floral pattern may allude to a period in which science and spiritualism were in a state of balance: though the Victorian period in England was not a particularly religious time, it was a period where knowledge, technology, and the search for knowledge of the spiritual world and subconscious mind were in an uneasy truce. However, we at the Museum are reluctant to try to read JMA’s mind. It might just be flowers.