Women at the Wall

I was in Israel in February one year, and the things I saw washed over my absorbent soul and left a mark, the way a wet coffee cup stains a wooden table.  

The light reflected off of the Jerusalem stone that so many of the buildings were built from, and the Herodian Stones that were placed at the Temple Mount before I ever took my first breath.  That established the palette for this series of paintings.  The tangle of women I stood packed and compacted with at the Western Wall, while I slowly made my way close enough to touch the stones, and the bright hopeful pomegranates unexpectedly hanging from wintered branches became the subjects I would be compelled to work from.

Throughout my visit, the sacredness of the small country was unmistakable.  The sights, sounds, smells, feel and taste, while current, were also echos of centuries of history.  The drips on my pieces represent the tears wept at the Wall over those centuries from the hopeful and mournful who stood there.  Many of the women I stood beside rocked back and forth on their feet, holding their faces over their tiny prayer books in hopes of catching tears on the delicate pages.  

I felt a kindred sisterhood as I stood in anonymity with hundreds of women.  Women tend to find their uniqueness, their identity, in two things: their hair, and the clothes they wear.  For this series, I’ve taken away both identifiers, making us all more homogenized, united in our moment of communion.

The pomegranate was the source of color that screamed through the monochromatic visit.  It’s shape, and the jeweled arils found inside, ironic little treasures, the fresh squeezed flavor of a cup sipped in the Arab Market, the stain of the burst arils on my fingers, at once like blood and celebrational lipstick, would later appear on my boards in uncharacteristic brightness for my work.  I did some research and found that the pomegranate is a symbol of righteousness and holiness in Judaism.  The paintings that show the women, the empty bowls, and the pomegranate arils are my way of saying, “Fill me with goodness...”.

The many step process used in my pieces produces a rhythm for me in my studio that is contemplative but tedious at times, freeing and like a whirlwind of busyness at others.  The initial sealing of the board, the texture application, the repeated sealing, the painting and print like technique, the drafting, the endless decisions, the delicate balance of what not to put in the piece and what to allow in it, the final act of signature and benedictory sealing glaze,  all leave my body aching from the physical toll and my mind fully spent by the time I retreat to bed at night.