This Shabbat, as I was walking from Clifton to Passaic, NJ, for a family Bar Mitzvah, I had an astounding realization. I realized that I have been struggling to find a solution to an idea – and did not realize that I have not only found a solution, but have been doing it for a few years!
Let me explain…
For a long time, I have wanted to express ideas in Torah that inspired me, through art. Ideas such as the light of the Menorah being more valuable to G-d than billions of stars and galaxies, or the powerful scene of King Saul going to battle with his sons, knowing they will die – doing the right thing, or Abraham being taken to see planet earth from the outside, and several more ideas. I tried sketching them in different ways, but something just wasn’t right…and so I was stuck for several years, occasionally trying to paint them in this way or that.
When I was in the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, a few years ago, I saw paintings that were more than just a canvas, which interacted with the space around them. I realized later that I was stuck because I was trying to paint an idea on canvas or on paper, when it needs to be perceived in space.
This opened me to the idea of installation art, and I sat to illustrate installations for my various ideas. This would involve lighting, sound, and all kinds of things… but it is an expensive endeavour, and perhaps one day I will have the time and resources to launch it…and so I reached a standstill.
On Shabbat, as I was walking from Clifton to a bar mitzvah in Passaic, NJ, I realized that not only had I found a solution for this quest, but I have been doing it for a few years!
Imagine, standing in the planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History (as in this video), with galaxies as your backdrop, the whole mood is set – and then light a candle, or talk about individual investment and uniqueness. And then it hit me – “I can do that!” I realized that the museum is where I can convey my ideas, and have an attentive audience, I can ‘make my art’.
Perhaps what triggered this realization is a couple questions a writer for the Jewish Press asked me, for an article. But either way, what blew my mind is that I had found the solution without realizing it, and have been doing it for a while. At least for some of my ideas, this is the perfect setting. And for the rest – who knows what the future holds?
Can you tell me one story of something that happened on a tour that encourages you in your work?
Having a 5 year old an 82 year old, an egalitarian woman Rabbi and a hassidic family all learning Torah together in the museum – where else can you do that?
How does what you do differ from a standard museum tour?
I bring my adventurers (or clients) into a world where we don’t look at “interesting stuff” from the past. Rather, we are engaging in our ongoing identity, the Saga of Klal Yisrael. To us, Nebuchadnezzar and Antiochus are yesterday, and the Assyrian and Persian Empires are things we read about in our liturgy, prayers, and our holidays. It brings the museum and our Torah to life in a special way, with an interdisciplinary educational approach.