The Dennis and Phillip Ratner Museum
Although I love most forms of art, I admit that sometimes I wonder what the artist intends to convey with the piece. That was not the case with the sculptures, paintings, needlepoints and other pieces I saw at the Dennis and Phillip Ratner Museum.
Phillip Ratner, whose pieces are most prominent in the museum, interprets biblical characters in much the same way that I would if I had the artistic talent. When I looked at his statue of Joseph in his coat of many colors, the bright striped garment looks exactly like I always envisioned.
For anyone who has ever heard the story of Jonah being swallowed by the whale after being thrown overboard by angry fishermen, spending three days in the whale’s belly praying to God then being set free on dry land, no explanation will be necessary when they see Ratner’s interpretation of this story.
When I looked at Ratner's Jericho, I could almost hear the priests blowing the trumphets made of ram's horns and see the people shouting as the walls of Jericho came down.
I was truly moved by the statue of wise Solomon suspending the baby in midair as if ready to divide it in half to satisfy the assertion of two women both claiming to be its mother.
Adam’s Rib, is one of my favorites. It shows a fully formed Eve standing on the chest of Adam still in the deep slumber brought on by God. In this interpretation, Eve stands as a tall, beautiful, powerful, capable force to be reckoned with. In size and design, she is both equal to and complementary to Adam.
Other pieces that I loved are the Tree of Life as it stands in the Garden of Eden hanging with the fruits of everlasting life, animals standing in pairs as they wait to board Noah’s Arc, Samuel pouring oil on Saul’s head as he tells Saul that he has been chosen by God to lead the people of Israel, Abraham as he prepares to sacrifice his own son,Isaac, and a sleeping Samson as he is sheared of the hair from which he derives his strength.
Among the many other pieces on display are the Twelve Tribes of Israel, the Twelve Minor Prophets, Jacob’s Ladder, and several framed needlepoint pieces depicting biblical scenes.
Most of the slender figured earth-tone pieces are from two to three feet tall and made by shaping and welding steel rods and covering them with an artificial clay called Proform. They are displayed on pedestals at eye level for easy viewing.
The Dennis and Phillip Ratner Museum is truly a jewel and one of only two or three of its kind in the entire world devoted to portraying biblical characters. The museum was founded by two cousins "to foster love of the Bible through the graphic arts" as "a walk through the Hebrew Bible via visual arts."
Regardless of your religious affiliation, viewing the sculptures, paintings, tapestries and other works of art in the 7,000 square foot museum is like taking a walk through the bible. For more information on each piece, guidebooks are provided and can be used during self-guided tours.
Most of Ratner’s pieces are on the second floor. The first floor is also used to display the artwork of local artists.
The museum is open to the public. There is no admission charge. Groups of 12 or more need advanced reservations.
If you go
The Dennis & Phillip Ratner Museum
10001 Old Georgetown Road
Bethesda, MD 20814
Phone – 301-897-1518
Sunday 10:00 AM - 4:30 PM
Monday - Thursday 12:00 Noon - 4:30 PM