What I Have Learned, Some Thoughts for the Jewish New Year

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After wondering all winter why I didn’t feel right, I was diagnosed in June with a neurological disorder.  Along with their genuine concern many of my friends had questions. Is it serious? How long will it last? What does it feel like? What causes neurological disease? The most meaningful question was posed by my good friend, Susan ‘What has your illness taught you’? I have been thinking about this ever since. What have I learned? Illness is a strict teacher. It grabs you and doesn’t let you go. All you can think about is not feeling well. Why did this happen to me? Did I do something to cause it?  Can I make it go away? Eventually I realized that I will probably never know the answer to these questions, so it is best if I would stop beating myself up. Instead, I would do a lot better to accept what has happened and start being kind to myself. I started focusing on things that make me feel better like yoga or working in my studio.  I acknowledged that I had to stop pushing myself and take things easy. I also started seeing other people in a new light. Since I can feel miserable but look totally fine, maybe other people are the same way. You never really know what is really going on with someone else. I reasoned, “Best to practice kindness with everyone, whenever possible”. What have I learned from being ill? It is much easier to be kind to others if you are first kind to yourself.

 

Political Pears

During and after the presidential election, I was very disturbed by the news. In addition to getting involved politically I needed to do something to express what I was feeling. I created artworks with clay pears that reflected my reactions to what was going on.  I often use pears in my work to represent people.

My People Were Refugees Too- A battered pear represents all refugees which I combined with images of my family from Europe juxtaposed with a photo of a Syrian refugee family.

Unity in Diversity-  I was disturbed by the talk of “America First”. Everyone in the USA is from somewhere else, unless you are a Native American. Diversity is part of what makes our country great. I used many different representations of pears to reflect that diversity.

Boat People- I was upset by images of people dying on boats. I remember my grandparents talking about coming over to the USA on a boat. I also wanted to reference African -Americans who were brought to this country against their will; where many of them died on those slaves ships.

Tools for Imaginary Tasks

Tools for Imaginary Tasks

Brian Eno advised that we should "stop thinking about art works as objects, and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences.” My ceramic inplements evoke the pleasures of well-constructed tools; using them transcends the task at hand. The beauty of carefully made objects reminds us that many of life’s satisfactions are in the doing. Tools speak to the stories of discovery and challenge of the maker and the user. My work explores the relationship between tools and the people who make and use them. Tools influence civilization but they also reflect it. In our digital society we need new tools to help us sort things out. I want there to be ambiguity about the origin and purpose of my implements. When so much is virtual, I remind people of the tangible enjoyment of actual objects and experiences.

 

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Coexistence, Conflict & Faith

 Artistic Visions of Jerusalem, a class based on the themes of the exhibition, Jerusalem 1,000-1400: Every People Under Heaven, will be taught by Beth Heit & Rabbi Warmflash. We will be discussing three works of art that illuminate the concepts of faith, conflict and coexistence.

The bronze lentil pot (see above) from 11th century Israel, highlights the theme of coexistence. In the Middle Ages, pilgrims of all faiths when in the city of Hebron to visit the Cave of the Patriarchs were treated to a dish of lentils, raisins and olive oil that was prepared by the Muslim keepers of the site.

 

 

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Artwork on the West Bank Barrier by the British graffiti artist Banksy is a comment on conflict.

   
  
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     Gateway by Beth Heit

Gateway by Beth Heit

I created Gateway, a ceramic wall relief after spending a six-month sabbatical in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a city of many entranceways, both physical and spiritual.

Wabi-Sabi Mug Making

A few years ago, I decided to begin spending most of my studio time creating sculptures instead of functional production pottery. I relish the challenge of being creative while fashioning one of a kind objects out of clay. But every once in a while I get a hankering to produce a series of something simple on the wheel. This week I felt like making mugs. Mugs are rewarding to make because everybody enjoys drinking from a handmade cup!

I find that the shapes and glazes that I use in my organically inspired sculptures influence the forms and colors of my functional ware and vice versa.  Spending time looking at items from nature has helped me appreciate the wabi sabi principles of nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect. I am mindful of these concepts even when I create functional objects like mugs. When I let go of striving to create picture perfect mugs that look identical, the mugs are so much livelier and reflect the active process that I engage in to realize them.

My Garden

This year my garden is amazing! It is very satisfying to see several years of work come together.  My garden helps me to see and appreciate the small things I wouldn’t be aware of otherwise.  Gardening is reflected in much of my artwork.

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Last week in the New York Times , I read an article by Gretchen Reynolds titled Piece of Nature, Peace of Mind. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/how-nature-changes-the-brain/  Scientists are studying whether urban dwellers’ mental health could be improved by taking a walk in a park or natural green area. The answer is ‘probably’.

I have noticed that in suburbia even though we are surrounded by nature we often don’t get a chance to experience it. We stay inside in our offices or houses. If you have some land, gardening is one of the best ways to get in touch with nature. It is also a way to share your aesthetics with the public if they happen to walk or drive by.

 

I have taken many photos of my garden this spring and summer. Let the images speak for themselves.