Sukkot: A Harvest Of Holiness

This week, the Jewish holiday of Sukkot inspires us to acknowledge and appreciate the beauty in nature and agricultural abundance.

The two illustrations shown here are from Parashiyot B’Hukkotai and Emor in Vayikra (The Book of Leviticus), each of which offer harvest/seasonal themes. On the left is a Torah, alive with the seven species of plant foods found in the land of Israel. The lulav (palm branch) and esrog(citron fruit) are the subjects of blessing recited in the sukkah, a temporary booth constructed for use during the eight-day holiday.They are details from my book Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah  Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009)

But I think that the gift of creativity is also a part of this celebration, for what is an artist’s purpose in life if not to make the commonplace seem extraordinary?

Today, on the third day of my recovery from rotator cuff surgery on my left shoulder (my drawing arm!!), I am beginning to appreciate how such extraordinary circumstances render my daily tasks an order of magnitude more painful and difficult than I have ever experienced. Of course, I am grateful for the medical technology that has enabled repair of this eventual total disability (if left untreated), but I am not going to bore you with gory details. Rather, I’ve decided to address this harvest holiday and it’s creative ramifications as best I can by sharing a new work that was completed just prior to my surgery and some examples of its historical precedents.

I have always been fascinated by the unique and decorative colophons and text decorations with which medieval illuminators embellished their work (both religious and secular) in many languages such as Latin, French, German, Arabic and Hebrew.  Their use of anthropomorphic and zoömorphic forms within or surrounding the initial caps and/or text decorations were a wonderful way to take advantage of letterforms, rendering these manuscripts a powerful and revered artform that are a touchstone for artists and calligraphers through the ages. Here are some samples:

Over the past couple of years, I have created six illustrated alphabets that have appeared on the pages of this blog and more recently in a special gallery of their own (An Alchymy Of Alphabets) at Ilene Winn-Lederer’s Magic Eye Gallery, http://www.magiceyegallery.com.

With a nod to my distinguished, if often anonymous illuminator muses, here is the seventh in the series: Garrulous Gothic. These figurative letterforms were based on a font called ‘Schaftstiefel Kaputt‘ created by the contemporary German designer Manfred Klein.

I wish all of you celebrating Sukkot this week a Chag Sameach and look forward to your questions and comments.

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