Posts Tagged ‘Alchemy’

Update #2-An Illumination Of Blessings: More Work In Progress!

June 27, 2013

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Dear Illumination Backers and Backers-to-Be:

With only nine days to go until midnight of July 6th, this project is only 52% funded! Don’t wait until the last minute to be part of this unique creative adventure! ( But it’s ok if yours is the big pledge that brings me to my goal! I’d love to fill my dedication page with your name and share my work with you! http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1330347473/an-illumination-of-blessings

Speaking of which, I’ve been hard a work creating a new illumination for An Illumination Of Blessings. This new one is the Tefilah Ha Derech or The Traveler’s Prayer. Historically, travel has always been fraught with anticipation, excitement and potential hazards. Most of us have childhood memories of the phrases “Have a good trip and/or Be Careful!” as we set off on journeys large and small through the various stages of our lives. Yet to embellish these sentiments with a prayer to One greater than us somehow makes them ‘official’, almost like a protective amulet. Indeed, in the Jewish tradition, small cards with these prayers are readily available in bookstores and online and when you are gifted with one of these, it somehow lends gravitas to your journey.

But I’ve never seen The Traveler’s Prayer interpreted in the way I have chosen here. Its presentation as an antique map hints at the history of travel and navigation that is both timeless and time-based. The iconic elements of earth, air, fire and water within the border are the forces that drive the various means of transportation that we’ve developed over the centuries from astrolabes that have guided us by the stars to sandal-ed feet guided by such maps and onward through the ages of iron, steam, air and space travel. Which brings me to the lesser known fifth element shown here; the Aether. In classical mythology, ‘Aether’ personified the ‘upper skies’ of space and heaven. I like to think of it as the worlds of our imagination, where we may travel unhindered by earthly concerns. Nevertheless, one might wish to use caution when traversing our inner landscapes. While the insights and ideas we discover there are often exciting and rewarding, they, like our dreams, may not always be what they seem… Safe travels, everyone!!

And don’t forget to visit Kickstarter to post your pledge; I can’t do this without you!!! Thanks!! http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1330347473/an-illumination-of-blessings

Ilene

For Shavuot: An Antidote For Apathy

May 25, 2012

Despite my conviction that works of art and literature, always contain the potential to become a work in progress, I am invariably surprised to find proof of this continual process of awakening and learning. Tomorrow, as we begin the Book of Numbers (BaMidbar), it is nearly three years after the publication of Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009). Though I created illustrations for Parashat BaMidbar based on narrative with some artistic license, I recently wondered why Parashah BaMidbar (In The Desert) was designated as the Torah reading on the festival of Shavuot when it opens on the census of Israel, and focuses on tribal positions around the Tabernacle along with the rules regarding service of the Levite priestly class rather than the actual receiving of the Law from Mt. Sinai.

The parashah states, “Hashem spoke to Moshe in the desert of Sinai” (BaMidbar 1:1),for which the Midrash (BaMidbar Rabba 1:7)offered this metaphorical explanation: “Our Sages have inferred… that the Torah was given to the accompaniment of three things: fire, water, and desert” (Bamidbar Rabba 1:7). Though I am aware of the concept of mystical, elemental underpinnings within the desert sojourn, a 2010 commentary by Rabbi David Pinto, ShLIT”A provided some further clarification:”It may be that by this teaching, the Sages wanted to show man that he can only safeguard his learning and resist the evil inclination, which seeks to control him every day, by means of the Torah which possesses these three characteristics. As our Sages have said, “I created the evil inclination, but I created the Torah as its antidote.” (Kiddushin 30b). “Since the evil inclination is made of fire,…a person can only resist
it by the power of Torah, which is compared to fire… The evil inclination is like a small fire that anything can extinguish, and the Torah is a blazing fire that never goes out…thus the fire of the evil inclination is consumed by the fire of the Torah…In order for a person not to grow proud on account of the fire of the Torah, he must humble himself and resemble water. (Ruth Zutah 1). This is why the Sages instituted the reading of Parsha Bamidbar prior to Shavuot. It is in order to remind us that the Torah only endures in us when we metaphorically transform into a desert (perhaps a receptacle) for G-d’s will.”

Wow. I guess that’s about as close as we’ll come to a ‘user’s manual’ for the Torah, whose full meaning and that of the events surrounding its debut will (hopefully) continue to be interpreted for many generations to come. Whether or not you agree with these ideas, apathy is not an option…

A Passover Perspective: Of Sanctuary And Sacrifice

March 30, 2012


As we enter the week preceding the Passover holiday, mindful of the history it commemorates, it is always with some trepidation. Some of that anxiety centers around the shopping and intense household tasks involved in preparation for the seder meals, but for me, as I do so, there is always the nagging question of ‘how much is enough’? Of course, if one observes stringent, time-honored personal tradition, such a question is never asked; preparations are undertaken with a few eye-rolls but mostly with zealous pride.

However, in the years since my children were young, my own preparation has become less formal, more intuitive in terms of the symbolism underlying each ritual. Ironically, as my domestic rituals shifted, my wish to continue identifying as a Jew began to take shape as an interest in the holiday’s cultural rationale and its history. Indeed, these became germaine in producing the illustrations and commentary in my book, Between Heaven & Earth: An Illuminated Torah Commentary (Pomegranate, 2009) It was as though all those years had been a sort of practice for what was to come.

The illustrations accompanying this week’s post are from The Book of Leviticus/Vayikra and address Parashat Tzav. While the book presents a slightly different arrangement of the images, on reflection I have added an element from Parashat Re’eh (Deuteronomy/Devarim) to cast them in a larger perspective. Though the figure from Parashat Re’eh speaks for itself, a full explanation of the other images may be read on pp. 155-156 in the AfterImages
portion of the book.

A wag for whom I’ve much affection once suggested that since the Israelites had so little time to prepare for their exodus and we are compelled to observe the holiday as though we too were about to leave Egypt, perhaps an appropriate symbolic ritual would be to forget all the Passover dishes and chametz-chasing. Instead, we should consider packing a few suitcases for basic survival and leaving them near the door as a reminder that on a moment’s notice, we may be compelled to leave our homes for a great unknown.

Sukkot: A Harvest Of Holiness

October 14, 2011

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.

Review & Preview:The Magic Eye Gallery!

October 3, 2011

“Your house is your larger body. It grows in the sun and sleeps in the stillness of the night; and it is not dreamless. Does not your house dream?”   -Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, 1923

I have always remembered that quotation and have taken it both figuratively and literally; particularly this past summer. As our house was being cleaned, painted and updated, I was compelled to take stock of my studio, the overstuffed repository of my 40+ year career as an illustrator, artist and writer. Which is not to say I am retiring (Heaven forbid!); just re-setting my stage for future developments. So, I am excited to announce that I now have a new web presence: Ilene Winn-Lederer’s Magic Eye Gallery! Here you will find many original prints, paintings and drawings, both framed and unframed that can be purchased via PayPal and shipped anywhere in the US and Canada. International shipping arrangement are in progress and will be available soon.  The link is: www.magiceyegallery.com. I look forward to your comments and questions!

Codex Gastropoda #3:The Unbearable Slowness of Reading

December 19, 2010

The German writer and polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is credited with observing that “thinking is more interesting than knowing but not so interesting as looking.” Visually tethered to technology as we are, this casual aphorism characterizes our global culture in ways he could not have imagined, yet would probably have embraced with equal enthusiasm. But is our fascination with high-speed looking diminishing our ability to think analytically and understand the consequences of our thoughts and actions? I fear that to some degree it is. And books, those tactile reliquaries of conversations with minds great and small are becoming casualties in a virtual battle between the Warriors of the Printed Word and the Knights of the Kindle. Although this entry was composed on my iPhone (sigh!) ‘The Burden of Knowledge’ shown above was drawn with these thoughts in mind and in memory of the pleasures of the ‘Unbearable Slowness of Reading’.

A Vintage Virgo: From The Alchymical Zoodiac

September 12, 2010

Each year at this time, my perceptions and energies seem preternaturally focused. Considering my September 13 birth date, is this a given? Or do we all find ourselves in this state on or around our birthdays throughout the year? Those who subscribe to astrological analysis with an emphasis on sun signs will confidently point to the sign of the zodiac in a certain position over the ecliptic and nod sagely. The history of science credits ancient astronomy and medieval alchemy as precursors to our understanding of the workings of creation and our role in it. While astrology’s readings of our personalities and events have also been part of human culture for millennia, our conventional science has yet to provide proof of this connection and has relegated astrology to the fiefdom of the foolish. Intuition suggests that this categorization of astrology may be premature; there is still much to learn about ourselves if we can move past its early efforts and allow its wisdom to augment our own. These sentiments inspired my creation of The Alchymical Zoodiac: A Celestial Bestiary (Imaginarius Editions, 2009) which may be purchased at my website: http://www.winnlederer.com/zoodiacbook/default.htm

Happy Birthday, fellow Virgoans (August 22nd-September 23rd)!

From Parashat T’rumah: The Menorah-As Above, So Below

February 16, 2010

Detail from Parashat T'rumah: The Menorah-As Above, So Below...