Parshat Chukat

Acrylic on parchment, 2007

Artist: Janet Shafner z”l, USA

My paintings are derived from biblical and midrashic sources, and are generally constructed with two or more images on connected panels. By juxtaposing images, I can compare and connect ancient themes with contemporary ones. The lives of our Biblical ancestors have profound lessons for us. Everything they experienced we also experience. Their lives were full of turmoil — sibling jealousy, unhappy marriages, barren women, sexual obsession, murder, rape, incest, but also tender, enduring love, and ecstatic encounters with the Divine.

Every existential question and every meaningful thing which touches us deeply today, has a parallel in the Bible. For me, these paintings are a way of bringing the messages I find in the sacred writings into my own place and time, making them visible.

In the parsha of Hukkat, of the Book of Numbers, we find a description of the purification ritual of the red cow, a description of the death of Miriam and

the subsequent loss of water from Miriam’s well, as well as a reference to the copper serpent fashioned by Moses. In my painting, the image of the red cow in a fiery triangle, surrounded by flames, is contrasted with the image of Miriam in an adjacent triangle of water, surrounded by waves of water. Central to both triangles is the copper serpent coiled on a pole. The contrast of fire and water was most meaningful to me, so I painted the images in opposing hot and cool colors, and bordered them with violet shapes, which are a combination of these hues.

About Janet

The art of Janet Shafner (1931-2011) covers 70 years. She became a master craftsman and teacher of painting. During her last 25 years explored areas of Tanach, finding that murder,rape,sibling rivalry, and man’s inhumanity to man have a long history . Her resulting paintings make fascinating biblical and contemporary connections.



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