I am an Unweaver and a storyteller. In my Unweavings fiber art pieces, I convey spiritual narratives through form, color, texture and calligraphy.
The words within each piece and the unwoven form suggesting these words evoke the power of various Biblical, spiritual and poetic texts. The unwoven spaces form symbolic shapes – wings, ladders, prayer shawls, veils, trees, falling waters, rivers, and the sacred architecture of windows, domes, and gates. The narrative is enhanced by my own distinctive iconography, indicating guardians, messengers, journeying and praying figures, processional figures and more.
By unweaving the fabric I “reveal” what is hidden within the material – liberating the threads to create shape, then “reweaving” through color, texture, and text. The narrative emerges from the juxtaposition of images within the surface, from the texts I choose, and from the combination of color, texture and pattern which convey a sense of time and place. My work alludes to the oldest traditions of narrative textiles, but in a completely contemporary idiom. And the pieces become carriers of my individual and our collective memories, through the spiritual narratives they transmit.
Music has been a central inspiration in my life and work – and nowhere more so than for The Shabbat Project. Over the years I have become increasingly affected by the words and music of the Kabbalat Shabbat service – the receiving, the welcoming of the Sabbath – a ritual composed by the 16th century mystics of Safed.
I have been particularly inspired by the beautiful Kabbalat Shabbat service welcoming the Sabbath at my own synagogue – Stephen Wise Free Synagogue (New York City) – led by Cantor Dan Singer.* The service consists of ancient prayers, psalms, niggunim and piyyutim.
The 12 pieces in The Shabbat Project interpret and embed the Shabbat prayers that have particular resonance for me through the music that carries them. The music calls forth the heart of the prayers – I unweave with my hands, feeling the sound and substance of these prayers. And by creating symbolic forms, incorporating Hebrew texts, and using my own narrative iconography in response to these prayers, I create a visual interpretation – a visual midrash.
A soundscape (on prepared iPods) is integral to and accompanies the project, so that the viewer can listen to melodies – both ancient and contemporary – that interpret these prayers.
Working in this way has opened up a path into thinking more closely about the relationship of text, sound, and visualization of prayer. How do we pray, what helps us to pray, what comes after prayer?
My hope for The Shabbat Project is that it will give the viewer a taste of the power of Kabbalat Shabbat, how music partners with, calls forth prayer, and how our understanding of prayer, and our “feel” for prayer, can be enhanced both by music and by visual interpretation.
*See Cantor Singer’s recently published “Tapestry of Prayer – A Jewish Songbook,” which is includes images from The Shabbat Project.