Sunday, March 31, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 6

Bonding within Love - sounds good!  Yesod (the ninth of the ten Sefirot) is the quality within Chesed today.  Since Yesod is associated with sexuality, it is nice when it is the quality in the week of Chesed, or Lovingkindness.  I had fun using collaged images on the left page, and writing "sexiness for connection and attachment," and  "Love your body,"  back in 2011.

This year, I took my collograph print called Betrayal over to DaVinci Art Alliance, an artist's co-op where I am a member, for a show in collaboration with Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre featuring art inspired by their production of Othello.  Do we need a more vivid picture of what happens to our relationships when they are torn by jealousy, mistrust, revenge, and betrayal?  It is the shadow side of Bonding within Love!

Something on the collograph plate actually tore through the paper in this print, leaving an area in the paper that looks like punched out teeth.  It was unintentional at the time, but I like the effect.

The emotions connected with betrayal and feelings of jealousy and mistrust are part of the human condition - something all of us have experienced in our lives at one time or another.  It is good to have a whole day to feel the energy of Bonding within Love, Yesod withing Chesed, as a reminder that those qualities are something to be nurtured with awareness.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 5

Today's quality is Humility within Lovingkindness, Presence within Love:  Hod within Chesed.  On the left page of my journal I glued an Omer counting aid from a 1986 Jewish calendar, one of many I have saved because of their wonderful photographs and images.  I had colored in only eleven of the forty-nine barley sheaves.  In 2011 I wrote "Whoops.  In 1986 I lost count.  It happens."  "Intention counts."  "Forgiveness of oneself."

This year I am aware that tomorrow at dawn Christians around the world will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This evening we watched 5 BROKEN CAMERAS, an Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature.  "Shot by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son, Gibreel, the film was co-directed by Burnat and Guy Davidi, an Israeli filmmaker. 5 BROKEN CAMERAS is a Palestinian-Israeli-French co-production. 

I'm not sure how the confluence of Passover and Easter, and watching a documentary filmed by a Palestinian Muslim co-directed with an Israeli filmmaker, seen through the eyes of a child, relates to Humility within Love, Hod within Chesed.  I think the eyes of a child holds a key...

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 4

Today's quality is Endurance and Persistence within Lovingkindness, or Netzach within Chesed.  Because it is also Shabbat, I used a spiral stamp inside the large yellow-gold circle of Chesed.  In 2011 I wrote "I could never grok Netzach.  Maybe I'll finally get some clue from counting the Omer this year..."

I still find Netzach elusive, but I got a glimpse of it from last night's historic 5th night of Passover Seder for Food Justice.

Yes, there were actually tomatoes on the seder plates at each table!  We learned about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' Fair Food Program, and the sub-poverty wages, denial of overtime pay, benefits, or right to organize, and the sexual harassment and threats of physical violence to farmworkers in the fields - a form of modern day slavery.

The endurance of the farmworkers in their daily lives and the persistence of their fight for justice and fairness, along with their supporters from the faith communities, students and others, is surely Netzachdik. It's non-violent approach is within a wider value of Chesed, Love.

I'm old enough to remember Cesar Chavez and the rise of the United Farm Workers. Back in those days I stood by the door of a supermarket handing out leaflets run off on a mimeograph machine (what's that!), asking people not to buy grapes.  Last night I learned from a young college student about her time in Florida participating in a two week walk, of fifteen miles each day, with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

I am struck by the persistence of the struggle for justice and social change over time.  Much has been achieved, and there is so much more that still needs to be addressed.  Netzach:  Endurance and Persistance within Love!

Because Netzach falls on Shabbat this year, (as it did in 2011,) it will be the guiding quality and presence for the next six Shabbats.  May that give us extra strength and clarity, patience and persistence, for whatever each of us is called to do.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 3

Beauty and Balance within Lovingkindness - the quality of Tiferet within Chesed - what a special combination on Day 3 of the Omer Count!  I designated Tiferet (in the heart chakra area) as green, so the other circles of Sefirot are a combination of green with the yellow-gold of Chesed. 

Apprently the 3rd day of the Omer was also Earth Day in 2011.  This year I was at wonderful lecture / slide show, The Global Art Scene:  Philadelphia to Shanghai, presented by Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof of They are critics who stretch my mind, challenge my thinking, expand my learning, and nourish my soul.   

Much of what they were pointing to in their comprehensive slide show of contemporary art, even when some of the images were difficult or painful, was the need to balance "beauty" in the larger sense with compassion and lovingkindness.  Art that makes astute commentary on our social ills, whether relating to race, class, gender, the environment, war, or poverty, is in a sociological, and indeed spiritual, sense coming from a place of compassion, in the sense of desire for a better world.  How could that not be the case at this point in history?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 2

Today's quality is Gevurah (strength, discernment, justice, discipline, awe),  within the week of Chesed (lovingkindness, compassion, mercy), the big yellow-gold circle.   I chose to designate Gevura with red, so the Gevura circle is red, and the other five are a blend of yellow-gold and red. 

Since the day's message is Strength within Love, or Gevurah Sh'b Chesed,  I added one of my favorite quotes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because it is a wonderful commentary on the blend of Chesed and Gevurah and their balance and need for each other:

"Power without love is reckless and abusive.  Love without power is sentimental and anemic."

The Reverend Doctor King sums it up!

On this page I use a ladder stamp with red ink.  You can use stamps that you may have, or collaged or hand drawn images. Or use ephemera you have on hand that may have personal memories for you, perhaps pertinent to the qualities of the day. Use whatever you wish to make the page your own.  Personalize it!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Counting the Omer with Visual Journaling - Day 1

Counting the Omer is a 49 day ancient practice which starts tonight - the second day of Passover.  Omer means sheaf, a sheaf of barley once ritually waved to insure an abundant harvest.  In museums you can see elaborate and beautiful objects like the one above, to help keep track of the count.  Omer counting evolved to keep track of the time from the crossing of the Red Sea at Passover until arriving at Sinai and experiencing Revelation on the 50th day (the Jewish holiday of Shavuot).

As a child I thought it was an archaic practice, perhaps still practiced by a few Orthodox folks - certainly no one I knew.  Later I learned that in the 16th and 17th centuries it became a mystical seven week practice, with an elaborate system aimed at deep preparation for revelation.  More recently I have come to appreciate the myriad ways the practice has been modified, elaborated, and modernized - made accessible as a spiritual path to many.  There is even an iPhone app for counting the Omer!

In 2011 I developed the following visual journaling system to help me count.

Every evening the count is preceded by a prayer:

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us concerning the counting of the Omer.

I used a Strathmore journal of 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper because I chose to use watercolor.  If colored pencils or markers are used, or other dry media, other paper would work.  It was helpful however to have a binding that allowed the journal to be opened flat to be worked on.

The yellow circles represent the lower 7 Sefirot, or power points in the body that have certain qualities. 

Each of the seven weeks is permeated by the quality of one of the seven Sefirot.  This first week starts with Chesed (Hesed), or compassion and mercy.  I chose to designate Chesed with a golden color, and because this is Chesed's week, that circle is larger.  You can choose your own color system, but whatever you choose, it is helpful to stick with it.  

The first day's quality is Love within Love, (Chesed Sh'b Chesed).  Therefore the other circles are golden yellow mixed with golden yellow.  

Follow my daily Omer Visual Journal posts and you'll see how the colors change from day to day and week to week, and which circle is the big one.  The color system highlights which qualities are blended that day. It is a system that you are free to adapt to your own purposes in your own way.  My journal entries are very personal, often quite mundane.  When I made the journal I never imagined anyone would ever see it - it was just my personal aid for counting.  

Now I am happy to share the journey.  Posting daily for the next weeks will keep me counting and hopefully, with your comments and input, remembering why we bother to do this...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

An Exhibit called WHITE BOYS???

Curators can really make us think, and help us to see our world and ourselves in a new ways.  I was really glad I was at the opening reception and gallery talk last night by the curators, Hank Willis Thomas and Natasha L. Logan, both African American, of an exhibit titled White Boys, at the Haverford College Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery.   

The official blurb about the show says  "White Boys charts the ways artists are aestheticizing white, male identity in the United States today. Privilege, invisibility, fear, anxiety, purity, emptiness, cowardice–whiteness and masculinity conjure an array of competing associations, emotions and imagery. Taken together, they present a perspective paradoxically ever-present and ever-absent: white is both the sum of all colors and no color at all. But how have whiteness and masculinity ‘evolved’ as relational constructs vis-a-vis blackness, femininity, and sexuality, modes of otherness that have often been scrutinized and alienated? Where are these terms’ entrenchments, and where do they become more pliant? Through photography, video, painting, printmaking and sculpture, the ‘white’ and ‘non-white’ artists of White Boys variously imagine male whiteness within this broader network of racial and sexual tropes and identities, marking seeming commonalities and more subtle gradations."

My own reaction to the show was fascination with much of the work, and appreciation for the photography and video especially.  It was by eminent artists, well exhibited in galleries and museums nationally and internationally.  My greatest appreciation however was for the curators, who brought the works of seventeen artists together and gave them a unique context that broadened the meaning of the whole.  Had I seen any of the individual pieces in a gallery, I would not have thought of it in terms of whiteness and male identity.  The fact that I wouldn't have thought of it that way but now  I will, with a different awareness, is perhaps the point of the show and the artistry of the curators.

Philip Metz  iwishiwas

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Diving with the Dumpster Divers

This wonderful mixed media assemblage called Pedal to the Metal is by Jim Ulrich, a member of Dumpster Divers of Philadelphia.  As soon as I  moved back to Philly and heard about the Dumpster Divers I felt like I had found my tribe!  I had been making art from re-cycled found objects, discarded or broken things, and thrift shop and garage sale treasures for years in San Diego, in isolation from other assemblage artists.  Amazingly, I reconnected with a friend I knew from early Philadelphia days decades ago, who turned out to be a Dumpster Diver and brought me into the group.  I just attended my second monthly meeting, and feel like I have come home!

Isaiah Zagar, the well known mosaic artist and muralist behind, was at this month's Diver meeting, along with his dog Blue.   I recognized him, but was too shy to speak to him.  As we were leaving, he held out his hands to me and asked my name.  I told him and he enfolded me in a warm close hug.  I said "I never expected to ever be able to meet you in person."  "You're a good girl," he said.  I am farklempt.

Isaiah Zagar

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Duchamp Unexpectedly

I thought I was going to make a SoulCollage® card honoring the aspect of myself of persistence and determination.  Instead, out popped Marcel Duchamp, now in my Community Suit of people who guide and inspire me. I was initially surprised when I heard that Seena Frost's  Community Suit is the largest suit in her deck.  (She is the founder of SoulCollage®.)  The longer I am a Soulcollager, the more I understand it.  Duchamp certainly persisted in his own quirky vision, regardless of whether it was understood or appreciated at the time.

When I look at my new SoulCollage® card of Marcel Duchamp, I feel like he is telling me not to care what people think, to take artistic risks, have fun, and see the absurdity in it all!

I love how his hands are splayed out in one direction against the glass and the angel's hands are splayed out in the other direction.    He is standing in front of his famous installation "The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even..."  

Making SoulCollage® cards intuitively is an unpredictable endeavor!  I love its surprises.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Transformation Mystery

I was thrilled that both my pieces had been juried in to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Continuing Education Programs Annual Juried Student Exhibition. What a wonderful surprise for my mixed-media monotype to be awarded an Honorable Mention, the icing on the cake at last night's artists' reception.

 It is titled Hidden Human Image, the image originating from photographs of our friend Bob which I took many years ago, not only of his face, but his beautiful belly button and the oak leaf tattoo on his pelvic bone.  Those photos became part of the Beautiful Bob photo etching series, including this one, which is actually in the Plastic Club's Small Worlds show which opens this Sunday March 3rd.  

Somehow this image mysteriously transformed, enlarged onto a stiff parchment-like substrate, changed to red, and was sewn in gold thread on to the monotype background.  We miss you Bob.  I'm so glad your hidden human image continues to gaze out at us anew.