Father & Child

IMAGE OF THE WEEK
© Durga Yael Bernhard

Here is a linoleum block print that I carved and printed many years ago, when my kids were little.  I remember noticing their particular body language in interacting with their father.  It was different from how they snuggled into me.  Their father was a jungle gym, a monkey bar, a platform of strength.  My children’s soft little bodies soaked up the masculine energy of their father’s body as much as they craved the nurturing they got from me.  He was an invincible fortress to them.  He held them up higher than I did, and showed them the world from a place “other than mother”.  I was the center of their universe; their father was the safe vehicle from which they began their journey of separation from me.

I remember reading The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff, which was like a bible to me as a young mother.  This book outlines the expectations of a human infant from an anthropological perspective.  Human babies, as evolved for countless millennia, thrive on firm handling.  They need to experience passive stimulation, including quite a bit of movement – whole body movement, which provides changes of perspective and lots of tactile sensation.  They want to be handled firmly, not delicately, by confident, protective hands.  Their father provided this – and while my hands were free, I tried to capture it in an image.

Happy Father’s Day to all those loving dads out there!  Your little ones will grow up in the blink of an eye.  Enjoy this precious time of their childhoods.

This image is available as a poster or card.

 

Posted in misc | Leave a comment

Clouds Over Colgate Lake

IMAGE OF THE WEEK

© Durga Yael Bernhard

I just finished this painting on Wednesday. Clouds Over Colgate Lake is a real departure from all my other landscapes.  First, it has nothing in the foreground – most of my paintings are distant views framed by something large in the foreground.  Second, it’s my first painting with an overcast sky.  Third, I worked on it longer than any other painting in my life – two years.

I started this painting in the summer of 2016, when I took my daughter and her friends swimming at Colgate Lake.  The water was too cold for me, but the view was stunning.  What you see is the Blackhead Mountains north of the Catskills – Black Dome and Blackhead on the right, with just a bit of Thomas Cole Mountain showing on the left.  I’ve hiked two of these mountains, and the wild saddle in between.  They’re as beautiful and rugged as the lake is soothing and serene.  I could sit there all day, building up texture and color – but only had an hour or two to start the painting, beginning with a monochromatic tonal study, then painting over it with minimal color.

The painting appears smaller than it is in this photo.  It is 36″ wide by 12″ high, oil on canvas.

A year later – summer of 2017 – I returned to Colgate Lake and worked on the painting some more.  I was confounded by so much green.  Normally I paint in the spring and fall, when the color combinations are uncanny, intoxicating.  These lush monochromes were a whole new challenge.  I studied the unfinished painting through the long winter months, propped up in my bedroom.  Then I put it away, frustrated by lack of time to work on it.

Last week I finally pulled it out again.  I was determined to finish the painting without looking back at my reference photos.  I call this “early weaning” – when I push myself to stop looking at reference before I feel ready, breaking my dependency on it and challenging my tendency to get hung up on reality, which chokes the life out of my art.  I wanted to bring this painting to completion on its own terms – as a composition of color, shape, and texture.  I strive not for a strict representation of the subject, but an interpretation.  For if art is not more than reality, then why not just use a camera?

Equally uncomfortable was my decision not to put anything in the foreground.  Without the usual contrast of near and far, I felt strangely unhitched.  It was worth the discomfort.  I threw my mental crutch into the lake – temporarily.  I will surely use the technique again.

Clouds Over Colgate Lake will be on display (and for sale) at my house during the Shandaken Art Studio Tour – July 21-22, from 1o am – 5 pm.  If you’re local, hold the dates!  Many talented artists are tucked away in these mountains.  My house will be transformed into an art gallery and bookshop, with hundreds of original paintings and illustrations on display, along with posters, cards, my brand new calendar, and signed picture books.  To find out more, see the tour catalog here and scroll down to my name.

A good week to all!

Posted in misc | Leave a comment

Ruach Elohim (Spirit of Creation)

IMAGE OF THE WEEK
© Durga Yael Bernhard

Ruach Elohim is the first image in my forthcoming calendar, The Jewish Eye 5779 / 2018 Calendar of Art.  The calendar goes to press this week!  For the next few months, I’ll be focusing mostly on images from the calendar, leading up to the Jewish New Year in September, when the calendar begins.  While each image has a caption that explains its meaning, my writings here constitute the “stories behind the pictures” – a more personal account of how each work of art was created.

Many painters are distinguished by their brushstrokes.  From the pointillist dots of Seurat to the furious impasto of Van Gogh to the elegant gradients of O’Keeffe, many different styles come to mind. This personal choice of stroke and texture affects the entire appearance of an artist’s work.  I’ve grappled with this choice for years, trying first one approach and then another.

About ten years ago, almost as if by a will of their own, my brushstrokes began to move in a diagonal direction.  Always from lower left to upper right, there was no particular reason for it, but it felt intuitively right.  Then I traveled to Israel for the first time, and spent two weeks of summer in Jerusalem, where I experienced the delightful evening breeze that brought relief from the heat of the day.  I felt this breeze as a diagonal force that blew across the ancient city from the Judean Desert.

My ancient ancestors, the Hebrew people, were desert wanderers.  They crossed the Negev and the Arava, the Sinai and Judean deserts.  Knowing that Judaism itself was formed in the desert, it was easy for me to imagine this diagonal current as Ruach Elohim – the wind, breath, or spirit of God, or Creation – represented here as two hands that unfold from each other as earth and sky, with many colors in between.

Needing no further justification, I’ve used diagonal brushstrokes and direction in my work  ever since, with that breath of life – and the peaceful evening breeze in Jerusalem – in mind.  In this painting, it’s emphasized even more in the current that cuts across the entire composition – the rippling spirit of Creation.

The Jewish Eye Calendar of Art, now in its fifth year, is a 16-month wall calendar, measuring 8.5″x 11″ (11″x 17″ open) and covering all of 5779 and 2019, with both the Hebrew and secular calendar.  Although many synagogues give away free calendars – and many people do not use wall calendars anymore – this is a unique collection of Jewish-themed art, and makes a gift like no other.  The Jewish Eye was “Amazon’s choice” of Jewish calendars last year. View the entire calendar here, and pre-order with free shipping until September 1st.

A good week to all!

Posted in Image of the Week, Jewish Learning | Leave a comment