A way to understand the world, a thinking process, a distillation, a clarification, a way of seeing, a lens on the world
A process of feeling, sensitivity, refining and maximizing the senses that we have, a spiritual experience
A full possession of body and mind, an alignment
A way to communicate, to observe and confront questions
Some of us weighed the thinking side more heavily, others the feeling, some saw it as a way to align thinking and feeling and for many the communication to others is equally important. One of the observations that I found most meaningful is that it isn't static.
When I reflect on my own experience as an artist I think about the early days when I painted just for me, because it gave me pleasure and stilled and focused an over active mind. At its best it was a meditation and occasionally I created something that delighted me, that left me a bit amazed that it was my creation. That evolved into a communication to others. Enough so that I overcame my reluctance to speak publicly because it was more important that I give my artwork voice. What drove me as an artist grew and changed as I grew and changed and I suspect that was true for each of us.
As I pondered these issues, I realized that we had switched directions to review a passage by Michael Fishbane in the book Sacred Attunement. Fishbane speaks of the ruptures of our everyday routines that can happen through a jolt, perhaps a sudden death, an intense love or an creation of culture. He posits that these experiences can change us and through that charged moment direct us towards a course of action. Artwork too can act as a crossing point to challenge our daily awareness. He then contrasts artwork with theology which he believes experiences all of existence as filled with crossing points.
We contrasted this rather dense passage with a commentary by Bahya, an early rabbi, on Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3:1) Bahya writes of Mose's growing perception of the burning bush as he gradually distinguishes the fire, the angel and the presence of God. The text talks of the goal of knowing God and describes the nature of the pursuit as "not all at once, but gradually 'as the dawn slowly but surely turns to sunrise'.
Is the creative experience a rupture or more akin to dawn turning to sunrise? The general consensus was with Bahya.
For the creative portion of our exploration we were joined by Elisa Berry Fonseca who shared her artwork which focuses upon light and also makes use of wire to create spatial drawings. Elisa also shared a number of artists with us who create artwork using light. Among the better known ones are James Turell who makes use of the physicality of light while Dan Flavin used light as a painterly medium. She shared Andy Goldsworthy who used snow and ice in a series of artwork and reminded us of Jim Hodges whose work is currently at the Walker Art Institute. Elisa also noted artists who make use of everyday elements in their artwork. Among them is Tara Donovan (see left) who uses styrofoam cups joined together to form large organic forms that interact with light. I observed her work at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and found it quite stunning.
Other artists she shared included Olafur Eliasson, Aurora Robson, Alyson Shotz, and Soo Sunny Park.
We were then turned loose with wire and translucent colored materials to create our own sculptures. Add light and voila!
To view information on lab artists and lab discussion links and handouts, please go to theJewish Artists' Laboratory website.
*The Jewish Artists’ Laboratory is an arts initiative through the Sabes Jewish Community Center featuring 25 artists exploring the theme of Light through study and art making. The project is funded through The Covenant Foundation and similar projects are being done in both Milwaukee and Madison. Artists explore how the theme of Light is relevant to Jews and non-Jews, to religious and non-religious, to the community and to the individual, to the artist and the non-artist.