Just in time for Launch Night (tonight!), The Jewish Advocate does a feature piece on Homegrown Judaica and a few of our local Boston artists.
This post was written by Marlene Burns.
I normally paint in the style of Abstract Expressionism. My emphasis is on the process, rather than the finished product as well as experimentation with media. Each morning, I face a blank canvas and allow the process to take over as I spill out my guts. In recent years, I have been very active in the Jewish community acting as a lay leader for a group of 30 people in the Northwest communities in Tucson. It has become increasingly difficult to clear my mind to paint each day with all the prayers, commentaries, midrashim and tunes filling up my head. I decided to marry my painting with religion and my Judaic series of paintings was officially born. I have 16 paintings in the series so far, with a goal number of 18 (Chai) by the end of this year.
One of the most powerful paintings for me, centers on the Kaddish Yatom, the mourner's prayer.
Our sages displayed great wisdom when they directed us to say this prayer three times a day during the period of mourning. At a time when we are surrounded by death and our faith in G-d might be shaken, we have a prayer that affirms life and sanctifies G-d's name. Our loved ones are not mentioned in this prayer. In my own experience, as I moved through grief with the loss of my father, Tzvi Avraham of Blessed memory, I needed to be able to do something more intimate with this prayer. There is a Kabbalistic meditation coupled with this prayer, based on the gematria (numerology) found within. 42 is a significant number in Kabbalah and there is a string of 7 words, all starting with the 6th letter (Vav) of the Hebrew alphabet. When these words are read, one should envision a ladder with 7 rungs going up toward the heavens. As each word is said, the mourner climbs a rung, carrying the soul of his loved one straight to G-d in his heavenly realm.
I found this meditation not only beautiful but, proactive by giving me the power to actively help deliver a soul back to G-d. I have given a name to this style of painting. I call it "sacred intention." Kavanah is the intention with which we pray. I hope that the viewer can make the connection of the kavanah in the prayers and the kavanah with which I create.
My partner and I chose this word to use as the name for our printing press that produces fine art reproductions of the series as greeting cards and framed reproductions Giclees on paper and canvas are also available in limited editions, enhanced, signed and numbered.
Unlike many religious paintings, my symbolism is covert. In this painting, the central image is the ladder, with 7 rungs. Hidden within are two words.....Chai for life and the double yud, representing G-d's name. The intention in saying this prayer is to not only concentrate on life and G-d but to also meditate on the ladder when the appropriate words are uttered. Throughout the painting process, I chant or sing the appropriate words to aid my expression of them.
The image is filled with incomplete circles that follow lines wending upward toward the heavens. These circles represent souls becoming whole as they complete their journey back to G-d.
I must admit that printing my work has never been a priority, but when this card is sent, with complete translation and artistic explanation/interpretation printed on the back, the one who receives it can take the teaching into his heart for comfort and inspiration.