Streams in the Wasteland: Occidental Babylon by Josh Tiessen

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Josh Tiessen

Streams in the Wasteland: Occidental Babylon


101.6 x 152.4 x [*] cm | 40 x 60 in

Oil on braced Baltic birch

  • Dual Category Awards

"Spending over 1000 hours on this ambitious painting, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between the old wild west boom-town Bodie, California and the Mesopotamian city of Babylon. During the years of the California Gold rush, Bodie could be described as a 'sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion.'  The Greek historian Herodotus described Babylon as gold-abounding, and biblically-speaking it was the world center of idol worship.

Spotted hyenas reside in Sub-Saharan Africa, so it’s logical to wonder why a pack of thirteen hyenas are roaming through a western town! Traditionally, the hyena has been a symbol for the unstable or sinister, and in some African cultures it is viewed as a grave robber. The Lion King’s hyena trio: Shenzi, Banzai and Ed, entrench character traits of savagery and cowardice in pop culture. For me, the concept of hyenas inhabiting an immoral western town came from Isaiah's prophecy of judgment concerning Babylon, stating that desert creatures such as hyenas would one day inhabit its strongholds, a symbolic picture of how Babylon, the world's greatest city, would be laid to waste by the Persian Empire.

Telescoping, a concept common in prophecies, explains how there can be fulfillment far beyond the audience that the prophet originally addressed. In the first century, New Testament authors spoke of Rome as being 'another Babylon' while the western frontier was seen as 'a land flowing with milk and honey.' In the end it accidentally became an occidental (western) Babylon, where the god of gold corrupted, unable to save the miners from their troubles." – JOSH TIESSEN