Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Megillah Project

I've been getting a few questions from people regarding the art project I mentioned in my last two posts, and elsewhere. I figure since I picked up my wonderful, shiny, new art supplies yesterday and banged out an outline for the paper I WILL have written by next week, hey. My blog is as good a medium as any to explain this thing.

The Megillah Project:

For years I've been intending to create some kind of big, huge project series revolving around all five Megillot (Kohelet, Esther, Shir HaShirim, Ruth, and Eicha). I've always been drawn to these books as an area of study and artistic inspiration, and I'm determined to create a grand artistic work for each, something that will be deeply personal, but also include every word of the actual text.

Every word. Even twelve-chapter Kohelet. Apparently I'm a glutton for punishment.

Until recently, I was at a loss of what this project should look like, what form it should take (illustrated book? giant painting?), and in what order I should take them on (shortest to longest? favorite to least favored?).

I tried several times. I still have the first pages I prepared over three years ago for what was to be an illustrated Book of Ruth.

Over time and several attempts, I stopped trying. I stopped talking about this project for a long while. And then, this past summer, inspiration numero uno struck.

I would try again, and this time, I'd emphasize the personal. Who needs another illustrated text? There's got to be a million of those, and among all that, mine would be nothing special. So I'd go for the mood and the visuals instead of literally showing a picture version of the text.

It made sense to me that when I felt a connection to a certain Megillah, whether because of some life event or state of mind or because I happen to be learning it, that's when I'd take the Megillah on, and really record the process of my state of mind through the reading and creating of the visual Megillah.

Sometime in the last two weeks, I had my inspiration numero dos, and I started on my first, and perhaps the most visually difficult Megillah: Kohelet.

You may be wondering why. Or, if you read my last post, you may not be wondering at all.

In a nutshell, Kohelet is (so far) the only Megillah I haven't heard read in shul, although hopefully, this coming Shabbat that will change. Until recently, it was also the only one I'd never bothered to read in depth from beginning to end. But school assignments, the upcoming holiday reading, and my own state of mind led me to finally buckle down and read it. Twice.

The past month has been a rough patch for me, getting adjusted to my new grad school surroundings while also dealing with some unexpected turns life has taken. It's a scary place to be. A few times, I've caught myself thinking a little like Kohelet, wondering what the point of several events, efforts, and prayers were. It seemed a fitting place to start.

So last week, I sat down and started sketching and cutting. Last night, I finished the first layer of what's to be a four/five layer project. It doesn't look very impressive so far, but it is only about a fifteenth of the way finished. It's just one layer, my first existential question. Here it is, as of last night:

It may not look like much, but it's actually one of the most grueling cuts I've ever tackled, courtesy of that decorative border on the top and bottom. Hopefully, by the time this thing is finished, it'll be twice as long as it is now and contain several more layers, plus the full text of Kohelet hidden among the cuts.

And I've got to tell you, it says more about my questions than I can ever write. It's this thorny, sticky process of trying to make it through a challenge, freeing yourself every time your sleeve gets caught, but all the while, hoping the effort has a purpose. Maybe that's a little flowery for a blog, I don't know.

Anyway, this post is here to explain the project so far, and hopefully as it progresses I'll be updating with pictures and info along the way. An update may not happen for a while, since the only reason I even had time to type this out is because I'm in bed with a fever today. But that's life. Hopefully the fever will be gone by the time I've got to go to shul this Shabbat and finally hear this thing read aloud.

1 comment:

  1. hi, you are an amazing artist. If I had 1/100th of your talent, I'd be happy. Stop doubting the quality of your work; this is going to be awesome :)