Shalom from the Artist שלום מהאומנית
The root of Shalom means peace and also wholeness in Hebrew. I send a message of shalom and peace from Israel.
In keeping with our Tradition, questions are often the core, rather than answers. My life remains full of questions:
How is it that I am blessed to be here in Israel? Why is the Jewish People here in Israel after 2,000 years and that my family was sustained for over 16 generations in Jerusalem?
Why had we survived and why had I returned? What is my role as an artist? Our role as a family? What is the Jewish message to the world? How are the Bible Midrash, and Talmudic sources of my artwork? Is painting a legitimate expression of these sources? Why did God bless me with this gift of color to be an artist? What is the message and the story to tell?
When I was young, my paintings were often realistic depictions. Today, they are expressions and encounters with the meaning and experiences of life here in Israel.
It is a challenge to write in words the experience that I have expressed in paint and color. It involves transforming thoughts, prayers, Torah study and life experiences here in Israel into works of art.All or this is expressed through color, often vibrant color and forms drawn from my surroundings.
With joy, I thank God for giving me this gift of color and for the gift which motivates me to paint freely. Without too much analysis–the colors and forms seem to flow.
My story, a love story…
I returned to the land of my ancestors and to the city of Jerusalem where my father’s family continues to live as 16th generation Jerusalemites. As an American born teenager in 1973, experiencing Israel for the first time with a youth group summer tour, I remember falling in love and staying in love with 3 places which we visited: Jerusalem, Sde Boker in the desert and the Mediterranean Sea—each with its own visual identity.
*Jerusalem — the golden stone buildings and archeological sites next to the Western Wall where we dug for a week under the sun finding glass and ceramic shards, dating back thousands of years to a former Jewish presence. Jerusalem linked me to my own family history ( my paternal grandfather born in Jerusalem to a 14th generation Jerusalemite family during the Turkish rule) and going back to the Temple and Biblical eras. The prayerful words concluding each Passover Seder at my maternal grandparent’s home “Next Year in Jerusalem”.
*Sde Boker — the simple, desolate, muted-tones of the desert and home of Israel’s first Prime Minister and Zionist leader, David Ben-Gurion. But it was the simplicity of form, of furniture, architecture and vistas that was so impressed me. To be able to live in the desert so simply and fully which was a sharp contrast to the lavishness of the community in my hometown.
*The Mediterranean — the full range of blues and greens and the constant energy of the sea have been a magnet for me for my entire life. The port of Jaffa, where my grandfather fled the Turkish army and the whole coastline continue as major themes in my paintings. Water, “mayim chaim” in Hebrew, is often a synonym for Torah as they both provide a source of life. The flow of watercolor lends itself to expressing this concept. Often different levels appear in my paintings allowing for multiple interpretations of the work. I started off as a watercolorist and it is always within me. Simply, I am drawn to water.
This part of the love story would not be complete without mentioning Safed. And the artist quarter founded in 1949 by my grandfather’s cousin.
This vibrant artist colony and breathtaking views of the Galilee hills inspired me to paint in the middle of this whirlwind tour. Little did I know that decades later I would have the privilege of living and raising a family in the Galilee.
The love story continues…
In 1977, I married Ron Spinner and 3 weeks after our wedding we moved to Israel. We spent our first year in Jerusalem amid the stone and history and at the time terrorist bombings on public buses which were our means of transportation.
Not fully comprehending what was taking place around me, I found time to sketch and paint the architecture and some of the archeological finds in the Israel Museum collection. Also, I taught art in the Jewish Quarter and in Mussrara to children using a lot of color and examples and a very limited Hebrew vocabulary.
Both Ron and I studied Torah at the Bravender institutions which enriched our year as we attempted make our way in this multi-cultural city, eventually moving to modern Haifa for Ron continued in graduate studies at the Technion.
We also experience the technological revolution of this start-up nation. I was employed at Technion as assistant editor for Technion Publications at the age of 23. Ron and I founded Vista Presentations (today Aims), a marketing service company for hitech.
We rode the hitech wave as we raised a family of 6 children starting in Haifa and moving to the hilltop community Hoshaya, in the lower Galilee about 25 years ago.
A Family Note
My paternal grandfather was born in Jerusalem during the Turkish rule to a family (on my great-grandmother’s side) of many generations (14 so they say) in the Old City. My father related the story of how my grandfather escaped a death march to Damascus after being inducted into the Turkish army and made his way to the States.Our family (Ziv/Zeff/Sieff depending on country) traces back to the Spanish Inquisition.
My maternal grandparents (Weingarden) gave me a deep love of family and Judaism which I have carried for a lifetime and have made every effort to impart to our 6 children and their families with great love. I was blessed with this understanding and gift at a young age and it has sustained me throughout my life.
Among my cherished moments in life are Passover Seders. As a child, I remember standing on a chair and trembling reciting the 4 Questions from the Haggadah before my grandfather and the whole family.
As a mother and grandmother, I sit at our long Seder table in our home in Israel, with my husband at one far end and myself at the other gazing at the family with which God has chosen to bless us. These moments are inspirations for life and also for many paintings.
“Let the sounds of music and the warmth of the colors make your life happier.” Isaac Amitai, Detroit, 12/14/1959
On my fifth birthday, Isaac Amitai (my grandfather’s cousin) blessed me with words that would prove true during my lifetime. Amitai, prominent Israeli artist and founder of the Artist Colony in Safed (following the Israeli War of Independence) was visiting Detroit and inscribed those words on a print which he gave to me as a gift.
One of his oil paintings hung in my parents’ home and always inspired me.
Today, one of his paintings hangs in our Hoshaya home and his daughter, Nira Portugali, also an artist has become a good friend.
Throughout these years, I continued to paint and exhibit – mostly in Israel and in the United States as well.
The themes ranged from the Beit Midrash seen from the upper floor in our home to the vistas of the Galilee to our children.
Recently, in addition to the main studio in Hoshaya, I have been able to find a corner of Nahariya on the Mediterranean Sea to paint and that gives me endless inspiration, again showing me the depth and vastness of God’s creation.
Hebrew letters and the combination codes that they create in 3 letter root words inspire me. But the real inspiration comes from Torah study and appreciation revealing some glimpses of answers to my existential question. For example, the letter “aleph” can broken down into 3 parts –2 “yuds” that combine as God’s name in Hebrew and a central stroke on an angle which is reminiscent of a ladder. As the Midrash teaches us, we so often find ourselves on this Aleph ladder which God has created for the human condition, grounded on the Earth yet climbing upwards towards the Heavens.
Daily Inspiration–God paints a striking watercolor in the sky at each and every sunset, in the Galilee and at the Mediterranean.
Questions: How is it that I am blessed to be here in Israel?
Why is the Jewish People here in Israel after 2,000 years?
Why had we survived and why had I returned? What is my role as an artist? Our role as a family? What is the Jewish message to the world?
How to include Bible, Midrash, and Talmud sources of my artwork?
Is painting a legitimate expression of these sources?
Why did God bless me with this gift of color and to be an artist? What is the message and the story to tell?
My paintings are not depictions, rather they are expressions and encounters with the meaning and experiences of life.