Michael Morain in the Des Moines Register:
Los Angeles artist Sandow Birk has spent a good chunk of the last six years hand-writing an English translation of the Quran and illustrating it with scenes of modern American life.
He is not Muslim. He is not even very religious.
He’s a surfer.
His search for good waves took him to the coasts of Morocco, India, Indonesia and the southern Philippines — all places with sizable Muslim populations — and he wanted to learn more, especially when Islam became such a hot topic in the early 2000s. So he started reading its sacred text.
“Given the global situation right now, the Quran may be the most important book on earth, but few Americans know anything about it,” he told the New York Times in 2009. “I’m attempting to create visual metaphors that go along with the text and hopefully make it more accessible to Americans, more relevant to American life.”
More than half of his results — 61 chapters of the Quran’s 114, neatly painted on paper — are on display through March 18 at the Faulconer Gallery at Grinnell College.