Monday, May 04, 2009

Guest Posting By Michael Mordechai - Art & Avodas Hashem

I will begin with an excerpt of my artist statement from my first solo art exhibition;

"To sum my art up in one sentence: “I am an Orthodox Jewish Youth, living in a sometimes Unorthodox Art World”. As a printmaker, I print on paper utilizing different techniques ranging from traditional use of lithography and relief, to an experimental mixture of serigraph and monotype. With these materials my goal is to introduce Judaism to my viewer in an aesthetic manner, regardless of their previous knowledge of Judaism, so that anyone will be able to appreciate the work on some level. For this reason, I chose to incorporate Judaism with other aspects of my life such as bicycling and skateboarding into my art to bridge the gap between the Torah and the secular worlds. My work ranges from humorous Chassidim popping wheelies on track bikes to very serious depictions of Jewish and Torah life. This visual bridge shows Judaism more empathetically and illustrates to the secular world that not all Jews that follow Torah reject the outside world. Whether it’s simply relating to the aesthetics of the work or understanding the Hebrew text and Judaic imagery, I attempt to create art which speaks to many audiences." (Dont Mess With the BESHT / Solo Art Exhibition / April 2009)

The relationship between my Torah observance and my artistic aspirations has been very interesting to say the least. Art college isn't the best place to try to live a daily Torah life but due to hashgacha pratis it was no coincidence that I got accepted to a really good art school the same time my eyes were open to the emes of Torah and of HaKadosh Baruch Hu. I was a late bloomer in education and it took me some time to be able to transfer to a four year university. Looking back, it seems that the additional years I wasted were in fact purging me of animalistic ambitions so that I would be able to fuse higher learning with Yiddishkeit. In the end of 2005, after seeing my parents religious growth since their 2000 Israel trip, I to became curious about my Judaism. They seemed different, much happier, more satisfied, and less stress about life. I started going to shul with my parents and seeking out what it was that was making them so darn happy. The Chabad rabbi told me I should go on Birthright, so in the summer of 2006 I spent a month in Eretz Yisroel. This was the point that I decided that every aspect of my life should be influenced by Torah and Hashem. After this realization, I decided to what any responsible mature young adult would do: I decided to drop of out college, forget about the bachelors degree, and run away to Israel to go to yeshiva. Thank the G-d Almighty that I did not put such a brilliant plan into action.

Hashem gives us all a skill and a mission in life. I realized at this point that my skill was an artistic ability and my mission at least at this point is to bring the glory of Hashem into this world with my art. Easier said that done, like anything in life that is truly important. I struggled a great deal in the early stages of this artistic transformation. 2006-2007 produced only one work that represented what I was trying to accomplish. The work is titled Kapporos and is a wood relief carving printed on paper.

During Sukkos in 2007, I met my future wife and found out that it is true when they say that all the blessings come from your wife (as long as she's a happy wife). We were married on Rosh Chodesh Nissian 5768 and spent the summer learning in Eretz Yisroel. When I started the Fall semester, it was as if my artistic ability was put on anabolic steroids. In my last year of college I produced an entire portfolio's worth of work. In total I will have twenty pieces all completed between September 2008 and May 2009 and created a website to features my artwork.

It seems that as my commitment to fulfilling Hashem's Torah grew, so did my skills as an artist. The more Torah I learned the easier it was to create Jewish/Torah inspired art. The art itself strengthened my commitment to Torah, because now I was able to better visualize the holy words I read in the seforim. The more I learned Chumash, Chassidus, and yes, even Mussar the more I was able to bring about a visual association to these holy words. Now that I have gone public with my artwork and am able to receive feedback from all walks of people, from the non-Jew to the religious Jew, it has given me the perspective that I now have a distinct style and that with time my art will continue to mature and evolve. Below are works completed in the last year that were in my solo exhibition and will be in another solo exhibition as well as a Jewish Art Exhibition in Los Angeles, California.


At May 4, 2009 at 6:56:00 AM EDT, Blogger Leora said...

Your artwork is wonderful. I hope you will continue to find ways to inspire and be inspired. Yes, too bad art school does not have Torah values (sometimes the opposite).

Best wishes with your Torah learning and your art show.

At May 4, 2009 at 12:55:00 PM EDT, Blogger Long Beach Chasid said...

Thank you for the kind words. My Torah values are not tested as much B"H as they could be so I made it out with minimal spiritual scaring. I feel that by me being there I can bring a positive light to Torah and Judaism and really by a light unto the nations. Most of the students have never met a religious Jew. After meeting me, seeing my artwork etc, my professors and most of the students have a greater respect and understanding for Torah Judaism.

At May 5, 2009 at 1:16:00 AM EDT, Blogger Menashe said...

Very nice works of the Rebbeim. Creative!


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