Ruach Elohim (Spirit of Creation)

© 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!

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