Mark’s Remarks: Renewing Creation
The morning service contains the verse “You renew Creation each day in goodness”, and when I prayed that line at our morning minyan last Monday (September 9), I paused and stared at the wall.
The night before, TBI member Michele Lauder and I had installed the “creation” series of artwork in the chapel, and for the first time, these seven prints were hanging, in order, next to each other in order by day, in the chapel.
Dardana Orsi gave these prints to her friend Ellie Handel over 20 years ago, and Ellie brought five of them to display in the Temple. Two were hanging in the chapel, two in the lobby, and one in the office, until the glass broke, and it stayed in a corner against the wall for years. The last two paintings remained at Ellie’s house. When I shared with her the suggestion that it would be wonderful to display them as a group on the wall in the chapel, Ellie was gracious to reunite days five and six with the others.
Over the summer, Michele Lauder replaced the mats, remounted, and reframed each print. She selected complementary colors to match and visually enhance each day’s image. We offer many thanks to her for donating her time and expertise to make this project a reality.
The prints are etchings and aquatint printed on rag paper. Artist Lila Wahrhaftig created them in 1973. According to a 2007 article in the San Francisco Bay’s weekly Jewish newspaper, JWeekly, Wahrhaftig was born in 1934 in El Paso, Texas, to a single mother. She grew up “very poor,” an upbringing that has made her resourceful and thrifty. As a teenager,”she hated that women couldn’t study Hebrew or have a bat mitzvah, and was kicked out of Sunday school more than once when she challenged that reasoning.” She went on to earn an art degree from Holy Name College in Oakland, CA.
Hebrew letters, Jewish traditions and the landscape of Israel inspire Wahrhaftig’s art. She often incorporates Hebrew prayers or phrases into her pieces. “Judaic art is like all art,” she said in a 2007 interview. “It allows you to have something in your life that always brings you pleasure.”
Wahrhaftig used to work 60 hours a week on her art, and cut back to 30 to 40 hours as she got older. She made her own plates for prints, then pressed and inked them, using the technique of printmakers in the 17th century. She also made embossed prints by hand, as well as her own paper for mixed-media amulets and other artwork.
“People who buy my work always tell me, and I swear I’m not embellishing, that my artwork makes them happy, or that they see something different in it every time they look at it,” she said. “That makes me feel good. How many people can say that about their work?”
Wahrhaftig currently lives in Oakland, California.
Artist Photo Credit: JoeRamosPhotagraphy.com