For close to two decades, media immersion placed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan squarely in our sights. With the troop draw down beginning in 2010, media attention turned to the returning veterans. News of the shameful bureaucratic difficulties they encountered became more frequent, as were stories about the lasting emotional, psychological and social impact of war.
I felt compelled to portray these young men and women as the diverse individuals they are, deserving of our respect and recognition for their personal sacrifice, irrespective of our political views on the conflict. As the project began to take form, I discovered that their tattoos provided insight into their journeys, their personal experiences and their beliefs and I chose to expose their stories by translating them into a visible medium that would far outlast the individuals themselves: porcelain.
The world is going through a crisis, a global pandemic, an unprecedented assault by an unseen enemy. Call it what you will, COVID 19 is literally killing us while we’re waiting for our lauded scientists and medical professionals to get us out of this. In the meantime, we’re sitting at home reading, playing, working, singing, chatting, zooming, eating, drinking, crying, watching Netflix and praying that this will be over soon. Praying, the way I see it, is a personal and intimate dialogue with whatever form of Spiritual Other people find comfort in believing in. We’re all searching for ways to comfort ourselves and others during this difficult time and if prayer does the trick, why not?
These thoughts brought to mind an installation I created in 2014 entitled ‘Virtual Angel’.
‘Virtual Angel’ was created specifically for an international traveling exhibition called AMEN. I was honored to have been selected by CARAVAN as one of 18 Western artists to join with 30 leading Egyptian artists in building bridges between faiths and cultures through Art. Each participating artist received a life-sized fiberglass figure in prayer with which to create a personal expression of prayer.
I chose to transform my figure into an angel as angels appear in the sacred texts of Christianity, Judaism and Islam as well as in ancient manuscripts that predate those texts. These winged creatures straddle the celestial and earthly worlds acting as divine helpers, intermediaries, protectors, and emissaries.
But I wanted to find a way to actively engage the public and provide the viewer with an opportunity for personal prayer. By using a mobile phone to scan the QR code I emblazoned on the angel’s chest (below), viewers were able to send their personal prayers to the world with a click of a finger.
My Virtual Angel provided a means of bridging the spiritual world and the contemporary digital world. It seemed fitting that these digital prayers are sent to the cloud for safe keeping. I invite you now to scan the QR code and send your own prayers out into the world.
If you do not have a QR code scanner on your mobile phone and wish to send a digital prayer to the cloud, you can do so directly by clicking HERE where you can also read the anonymous prayers that have been sent out by others. And for what it’s worth, I’m sending my prayers out to one and all for a safe and healthy sheltering. Take care.
Like many, many people living in the US right now, I am experiencing great anxiety about the state of this nation. It’s hard to believe that we will ever extricate ourselves from this free-for-all bog of lying, fear and hatred. A recent visit to the MOMA exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria comforted me by reminding me of my mother’s wise words: ‘This too shall pass‘ – words that got me through some tough times. Hundreds of iconic artworks created over the past 130 years were on display, portraying the challenges that each new decade brought with it.
Walking through the highlights of New York’s Museum of Modern Art collection was like a visual walking tour of history. The impressionist, cubist, surreal, abstract expressionist, fauvist, modernist and contemporary works revealed the artists’ responses to wars, culture clashes, political upheavals and inner turmoil.
I won’t even begin to attempt to walk you through such a content-rich and complex exhibition – I’ll leave that to the NGV’s curated site. But I will share a few teasers.
I also enjoyed the ephemeral contemporary installation by Roman Ondak, Measuring the universe. This dynamic installation was created by marking the height of individual museum visitors, creating a panorama of human height variables.
On site volunteers stand you up against the wall (just like your mom or dad did then they marked the kitchen doorway to check your growth) and mark your height along with your name and date. The names scribbled by the volunteers one on top of another become a black mass of jumbled individual names ultimately unreadable but representing all of humanity.
Ondak’s goal in this work is to unite people in a shared action. After all, we inhabit the same universe – that comes with privileges andobligations to treat one another as equals.
(Oh, by the way the Belgian artist’s name was Magritte and the famous Dada artist’s name was Marcel Duchamp).
NEWS UPDATE: I will be teaching a three-day collage workshop at the Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs to accompany my exhibition there in November. Stay tuned!
When freedom of expression is muzzled, Art withers and dies. We cannot allow our culture to be terrorized and blackmailed. We must stand together to defend our heritage of freedom and creative expression. In the wake of the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris, France, it is uncannily timely to announce the upcoming interfaith, peace-building art exhibition in which I will be participating and have played the role of co-curator. The exhibition is titled The Bridge (Le Pont) and will open in Paris at the historic Church of Saint Germain des Pres, the oldest church in Paris.
I will be traveling to Paris to help set up the show. The exhibition will act as an emissary of peace, traveling from Paris to Brussels, Rome, London, Cairo and the United States for 18 months. I am very honored to have played a key role and to be exhibiting my own painting alongside 46 artists of Arab, Persian and Jewish backgrounds. Below is the image of my painting entitled Narrow Bridge followed by my brief artist’s statement that explains how I found inspiration for this painting in the wise words of a hassidic mystic from the 18th century….
ARTIST STATEMENT ON ‘NARROW BRIDGE’
“The whole world is a narrow bridge.
The main thing to remember is not to be afraid.”
Rabbi Nachman of Bratislav (1772-1810)
Within minutes of being invited to participate in The Bridge exhibition, the words of a popular Hebrew song began playing in my mind: Kol ha’olam kulo gesher tzar me’od, v’haikar lo lefached. (The whole world is a narrow bridge. The main thing to remember is not to be afraid). I was surprised to learn that these words are attributed to the rabbinical sage, Rabbi Nachman of Bratislav, born in Ukraine in the 18th century and the great-grandson of the founder of Hassidism, a mystical branch of Orthodox Judaism.
These few words have survived intact over the centuries yet they capture the essence of this exhibition. If ever there has was a time to reach across cultures, religions, borders and peoples in order to pull the world back from the brink, it is NOW. My painting ‘Narrow Bridge’ is a crude reminder that in order to bridge our differences we must conquer our fears and reach a hand across that narrow bridge without looking down.