Introduction to projects based on Torah and Midrash: Seeing Sinai and New Translations-Genesis
In 2001, felt that the connections and overlaps between abstract art and Jewish ideas needed expansion and that a learned guide could help me. I contacted professor Arnold Eisen, then Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University.
Professor Eisen agreed to work in collaboration with me. We worked without a clear plan: we spoke in my studio, looking at my abstract paintings. Eisen listened and learned more about color, light, unity, and painterly dynamics. I spoke about how that my paintings are anti-image paintings; a viewer is meant to experience a visual process, to apprehend the “becoming” of abstract unity, not to see an image. Over a year of studio visits and phone conversations between New York and California, we read Torah and I painted on the basis of our study. The scholar came to interpretations of the text that were new to him and I began to envision aspects of text.
Eisen (and I) did a close reading of the (Hebrew) text of Exodus 33-34, the central Torah text in which Moses asks to see the Glory of G-d on Mount Sinai. My painting philosophy influenced Eisen’s reading of a section he had read so many times. Reading Torah in the studio, attentive to the questions of a visually focused artist allowed him to consider the subject of vision in a new context. The richness of specific words and meanings in the ancient Hebrew allowed me to paint with deeper understanding and the status of ‘word’ in sacred text led to new ideas.
I believe we created a hybrid of Torah study and art. I hope the works are imbued with qualities of insight one can feel studying Torah deeply. The resulting paintings and Eisen’s Commentary became the project, “Seeing Sinai (2004).” The collaboration was exhibited in a series of Jewish art venues between 2005-2010.
New Translations: Genesis (2010), a later Torah project, was my painterly response to Robert Alter’s 2009 translation of the Book of Genesis from the original Hebrew. In color based abstract collages, I made seven pieces for the seven days of Creation as narrated in Genesis, trying to recreate in visual/tactile experience the interactions of light, matter and (some reflection of) Divine intention operating on/in those primordial days.