For several years now, I have been developing a family of innovative methods for orchestrating collaborative design for generating ornamental motifs, architectural details, or full scale works of art.
These artworks can be used to adorn the worship space, providing a sense of presence and participation on the part of the congregants in the physical arrangement of the sanctuary. They can be cropped and framed and auctioned to the members of the congregation or to the wider community as a means of outreach, and as a means to support the congregation and the artist materially as well as spiritually.
Originally developed to spur collaboration between artists and faith communities, I have been working on several approaches to making the design and appointment of a worship space a truly collaborative product of the community it serves. Inviting every member into the creative process allows a real and profound sense of participation in, and ownership of, the built environment. The professional artist serves this process as a technician to a family of specialized concerns, stewarding the creative energies of the community t
The act of Giving is a fundamental human act. It is not unique to our species, but without it everything that is good in our human world becomes unimaginable. Seeing the beauty, the aesthetic value, in this life-affirming impulse, even within a world so much in the thrall of greed and inequality, that is uniquely human. Amidst the quotidian values of the marketplace, giving is a transgressive act of boundary-crossing that doesn’t involve coordinates or quantity, but measures only the amount everyone is lifted.
A Rat’s Ass
The list above consists of words or phrases commonly used after the word “give” (“Give away,” “give a reason,” etc.). This formed the structural theme for a number of activities organized around the Sukkah Project 2013. A number of professional artists were invited to participate in this community event. Each was supplied with one of the iconic objects of the visual arts of the last century: a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup. They were asked to choose one word or phrase from the list above (or to devise one of their own) to reflect upon as they altered, adorned, or interpreted this can. The resulting artwork was displayed on the back wall of the sukkah for the duration of Sukkot, as well as during a later planned exhibition within the synagogue. The walls themselves were designed using the actual canned-goods contributed by the community for donation to the local food pantry. Over 1300 cans formed an animated backdrop to the singular contributions of the artists.
Hosted by Temple Adas Israel, this project took shape under the stewardship of Rabbi Leon Morris, Architect Nilay Oza, a host of collaborators and assistants, and myself.
The students in the Hebrew School were given roughly the same task as the other artists for the purpose of creating a mural together, and they came up with a range of pictorial responses, putting pen to paper in creative and unexpected ways. The vocabulary they were working with focused on the word "chased" or 'loving kindness,' which worked nicely with the theme of the holiday.
Using a collaborative design process I have come to call "Meronymy," I incorporate these elements into a radial pattern, not unlike a mandala.
These images were arranged into a radial pattern, and a segment of that pattern is sampled in a 4' x 8' mural adorning the side of the sukkah.