Sunday, March 4, 2007

Neve Shalom

Last night was the reception for my exhibit at Neve Shalom, a modest, but an incredibly special, venue. In Europe, one sees places of worship as they enter the towns. They are the highest and most elaborate structures. Neve Shalom is a secret, located in a basement adjacent to a home for retarded folks. The synagogue appears to run on a shoe string budget, but is abundant in sincere and enthusiastic people who might not be comfortable anywhere else. And it is led by James Goodman—poet, musician, and last, but not least, rabbi.

After hearing that people spend about eight seconds per artwork in a gallery, I start adding words to my pieces, hoping to engage the viewer a bit longer (I think it works). This particular exhibit is composed of digital paintings and text done in collaboration with Joan Lipkin, who participated in email interchanges with me during her visit to Little Cayman last year.

During the reception we sat around the joined tables to have a conversation about the pieces. I read a message from Joan, who is lost for the weekend in some remote area of Mexico. Then I mentioned some questions my daughter asked earlier at dinner, ending with the prizewinner: what one idea do we want to be our legacy for years to come? Even having one idea remain is quite an accomplishment, considering the population of Earth.

Next James Stone Goodman pulled a poem out of a crinkled envelope. I could see that he had printed it on discarded paper that had printing on the other side. Jim said that he had written the poem in three parts about our works, and that he'd never had been to Little Cayman, but that he did a little research on the place, which he loves to do. The poem was a wonderful impression of the enviroment we had attempted to create in our text and pictures, and soon it will be webbed so all can read it.

After a brief discussion that followed, the program moved to a musical concert ranging from John Coltrane to Middle Eastern music, "entitled SIN AND SOUL, music from the holy and not-yet-holy character of Purim festivities, also the holy ceremony Havdalah done in the old/new Breslover style and other delectables." It was stupendous, to say the least.

William Wordsworth, the hopeless romantic, wrote, "The world is too much with us; late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours. " Our lives are about things that don't really matter, things that don't connect us to ourselves, to one another, to the world, or to eternity. Yet, at Neve Shalom, there is a generosity where people lay aside the business of their lives and open their hearts to higher order concerns. It was heartening, to say the least, to be part of this secret enclave (dare I say ghetto?) where life (in the broadest sense) is celebrated through the creative arts.

Thank you, Neve Shalom, for making this world so much better.


celerman said...

I've been blogging since september '06, small scale ramblings, poetry, stories and stuff. I now blog regularly, have to control the desire to blog too much. I am part of a loose collection of bloggers who share an interest in lists of all sorts. I came here via next blog and found you shared that interest.

I would like to invite you to contribute to a new section of my blog called "by invitation only". You can find it at

I would like you to contribute something on the subject of lists.

I know time is precious, a link to something related would do, something orignal - written or visual, whatever you can be bothered with.

If you don't want to, just say no thanks.

Good luck with your retirement


Anonymous said...

You’re right, there is something special about the exhibition space this time. Neve Shalom is, indeed, pretty neat. I completely understand, but in a way object, to your use of the term “modest” in describing it. Don’t get me wrong, it is absolutely no frills as synagogues go, to be sure. But I doubt God gives a shit about flying buttresses and clerestory windows or, for that matter, how gaudy and gilded an Aron Kodesh is and whether a shul’s bimah is carpeted. A house of God is a house of God.

The venue prompts thoughts beyond the parameters of the exhibited works’ ostensible themes.

I suppose that all spaces – even those thought of as secular and utilitarian in usage - are sacred, inasmuch as the creative spirit is said to permeate all things. (sometimes, after riding out a spell of metaphysical doubt, I hear myself coming back to an old conclusion, “where there is Creation there must be a Creator”)

Spaces are made even more sacred, in my opinion, by the presence of artworks produced by sincere artists. Artworks act upon their environments; they somehow electrify and sanctify them. Exhibiting artwork in a house of worship seems fitting.

Producing sincere (heartfelt) artwork is akin to keeping a covenant with God, whether the artist is aware of it or not. The artist is, after all, “paying back” by being creative. His studio practice is his payment plan. And, of course, the artist’s creativity is a kind of microcosmic replication of God’s creativity...or, seen another way, the artist’s creativity is an extension of God’s creativity (a kind of divine channeling).

In this case your work was installed in a place already considered sacred by virtue of the worship that goes on there (sacred despite the dust buster placed on top of the Holy Scriptures bookshelf…wow, I like their informality!). It was a nice fit.

Congratulations, Kim, on another great show.

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