For me, the most exciting thing about abstract expressionist painting is that I never know what will show up on the canvas. Authentic expressions have deeply rooted origins. When my painting process is complete, I need to examine the results to fully understand the expression. Each morning that I paint, I face a blank canvas. It is thrilling to realize that my day's work will yield a surprise upon completion. My emphasis is always on the process of painting rather than the finished product.
One morning, at the height of my involvement in Judaic teaching and training, I simply could not clear out my head. It was filled with prayers, commentaries, dvarim, conversations and melodies. The day before, I had taken my first look at Mishkan T'Filah and was impressed by Sh'ma Yisrael in Torah font, spanning two pages in an arc shape.
That image was stuck in my head as I chanted the prayer in Torah cantillation over and over.
My favorite Sh'ma midrash explains that when our Patriarch, Israel, was on his death bed, surrounded by his 12 sons, they announced, "Listen, Father (Israel) : the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is One." They assured their beloved father that they understood and would maintain their allegiance to this basic tenet of Judaism. In a weak voice, he responded.
We emulate Israel's dying words by saying that second line softly or silently.
Rather than fight to clear out my head, I put the canvas on the floor and squirted black ink across the top in a big arc. I asked G-d for a sign and tilted the canvas.
Twelve drips ran down the arc. For me, those drips represented the twelve sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel. I had my answer.
One painting led to another and 6 weeks later, I took a breath, stepped back and had 9 paintings. Before the next spurt of creative expression took over, I realized that as an artist and Hebrew educator, I needed to compose texts to accompany these paintings. Translations of each prayer with my interpretations would become an integral part of these offerings.
I have added 14 more paintings to this Judaic Series that I refer to as "Sacred Intention."
Unlike my other abstract expressionist work, this series requires preparation. I don't measure, make renderings or choose colors. Instead, I study, read commentaries and research origins. Music heightens our ability to connect to a specific prayer, whether serving as a nostalgic bookmark in our lives or simply providing emotional comfort.
For that reason, I always chant or sing the specific prayer while I paint.
Authentic prayer requires kavanah. Painting expressions of our liturgy demands the same sacred intention.
Please follow this blog as I take you on my journey of melding two passions in my life...Judaism and Painting.