The Mystical Drawings of George M. Silsbee (1840 – 1900)

The Mystical Drawings of George M. Silsbee (1840 - 1900)

I had the opportunity to write an essay on the really extraordinary charts by 19th-century Masonic artist George M. Silsbee for their first public exhibition at Ricco/Maresca in Chelsea. They are dense with symbolism and ciphers and were likely intended for some Masonic rite or ritual. There’s not much known about Silsbee except that he was an  artist, miner, engineer, and organ builder, and very little of his work is known, so it was a challenge but rewarding to examine this handful of facts against the incredibly elaborate charts:

Even without understanding the exact intentions behind each element of these works, it is easy to get pulled in by the repeating of phrases and characters that Silsbee used to build these pathways to knowledge of something ancient and spiritual. Moving through the scripts of “Explanatory Marks of Jehovah’s Private Teacher’s,” where black curls of ink and ciphers add to its aura of deep meaning, the phrase “I am” emerges again and again like a mantra: “Christ Jesus Son Of God Three In One I Am That I Am I Am I Am I Am I God Jehovah … I Am God I Am I Am One Of Three 3 In One.” It goes on and on, letters interrupted by numbers, symbols, and combinations that resemble equations. A textural pattern of tiny dots joins it all so you can almost hear the meditative tap of Silsbee’s hand reverberating through each line, trying to find a way to communicate sublime mysteries whose complexity could not be expressed by terrestrial images.
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