Editor’s note: Each month we feature the Judaica-themed work of an artist affiliated with the Jewish Renewal movement. This month and for the past several months, we feature the work of artist and Jewish educator Marlene Burns. We invite you to check out the spiritual and meditative process she employs when creating the work on her website. Below, we invite you to consider the artist’s description of a work entitled, ‘Avot v’imahot – Patriarchs and Matriarchs’:
“Blessed are You, O Lord, our G-d and G-d of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, the great, mighty and awesome G-d, the supreme G-d Who bestows beneficial kindness and creates everything, Who recalls the kindnesses of the forefathers and foremothers, and brings redemption to their children for His namesake, with love. O King, Helper, Savior and Shield. Blessed are You, O Lord, the Shield of Abraham and Sarah.”from the AMIDAH (The Standing Prayer)
This artwork, laced with symbolism, is an expression of the opening paragraph of the Amidah prayer. In it, we praise G-d, acknowledging that He recalls that our forefathers and foremothers were righteous and remembers us, their children, with His divine love. In the image, circular symbols float in fields of metallic color, representing G-d’s kingdom.
When we say this prayer during services, we first symbolically enter the Divine Presence by taking three steps backward, and then three steps forward. The artwork includes symbols representing the choreography of the Amidah’s opening paragraph: the red blocks located at the top middle of the picture ‘march’ from the border toward the center, illustrating those three steps.
The slender, ‘bowing’ golden and bronze colored threads in high-relief that frame the top portion of the image represent the three symbolic bows we take at two separate points during the recitation of the standing prayer. The tree-like image formed by the slender threads is reminiscent of the Tree of Life (Aytz Chayim) – one of the names for the Torah.
Four pale globes (Matriarchs) are positioned behind three red (Patriarchal) orbs. Each of the Patriarch’s orbs is in a deep shade of red, to acknowledge G-d’s profound influence on each man. The left orb is Abraham, filled with his ten trials. The central orb is Isaac, epitomized by his being bound as a sacrifice to G-d by his father, Abraham. Jacob (Israel) is shown as the one from whom twelve tribes came forth. Each band of color is specific to the appropriate tribe of Israel.