Introduction to 2 Projects
Seeing Sinai and New Translations: Genesis
The following describes how I became involved with these two projects based on commonalities between abstract painting and Jewish sacred text. It’s not necessary to read this introduction but it might answer questions after you view the images.
In 2001, I felt I wanted to explore connections and overlaps between abstract art and Jewish ideas and that a learned guide might help me. I contacted professor Arnold Eisen, then Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University, (with whom I had studied briefly) and asked him to work with me.
Professor Eisen agreed to find a way to collaborate with me. We worked without a clear plan: we spoke in my studio, looked at my abstract paintings, and Eisen listened as I spoke about color, light, unity, and dynamics. He understood that my paintings were anti-image paintings; a viewer was 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 cross country phone conversations we read Torah, I painted on the basis of our study and he came to new interpretations that became commentaries.
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 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 a different understanding of Formation.
I believe we created a hybrid form of Torah study and art. I had wanted the sense of insight that one can feel when looking at art to join with Torah insight. The resulting paintings and Eisen’s Commentary became : Seeing Sinai: Meditations on Genesis 33-34″. We showed the collaboration in a series of Jewish art venues and the project has been the subject of many articles in Jewish publications.
New Translations: Genesis was my response, as an abstract painter, to the new translation of Genesis by Robert Alter. Alter created a translation that revives the physicality of the original Hebrew. In color-based abstract collages, I made seven pieces for the seven days, trying to recreate through visual experience the interactions of light, matter and (some reflection of) Divine intention operating on/in that primordial day.