Posts Tagged ‘sefer yetsirah’

Un-Literal Letters: The Instruments Of Imagination

February 5, 2012

Scroll Alefbet©2012 Ilene Winn-Lederer

Acanthus Alefbet©2012 Ilene Winn-Lederer

In December of 1968, as an illustrator/designer at Pictorum, Inc., a Chicago design firm, I received a Christmas gift from my employer, a devout Catholic, that would prove to be a map to my artistic future. Jewish Art From The Bible To Chagall by Ludwig Gutfeld (Thomas Yoseloff, New York, 1963) is a modest compendium of art, artifacts, architecture and sculpture created to express themes in the history and practices of Judaism.

It awakened my nascent curiosity about my ethnic and religious heritage, suggesting questions I did not know how to ask. As an art student, I had been intimidated by a demanding instructor whose own formidable skills in the lettering arts exposed the limits of my skills in that area. I became discouraged from considering a career in that area, yet, despite being unable to read Hebrew, I was particularly drawn to the examples of medieval manuscripts in this book with their hint of unlimited possibilities in these letterforms.

It was not until the early 70’s, when I became aware of the iconoclastic lettering works of the artists Ben Shahn and Leonard Baskin that I developed the courage to experiment on my own. In later years, with further exploration into their history and levels of meaning, my fascination with Hebrew letterforms grew, becoming incorporated into my illustrations and eventually manifesting into the series of  alphabets, two of which are shown in this post. Within my Magic Eye Gallery site (http://magiceyegallery.com/) under the pull-down menu, you can see the others in the Alchymy of Alphabets gallery. They are available as gicleé prints, sized to order.

According to the Sefer Yetsirah, a core Jewish mystical text, God created the world through the letters of the Hebrew alphabet and ten numbers or sefirot. I would humbly suggest that perhaps we can understand this process on our own micro level, honoring these letters as keys to unlock our imagination…