Artist: Gilah Yelin Hirsch, USA
Parshat Ekev deals with a host of significant issues as the Israelites are midway between Egypt and the Promised Land. Much like a father meting out “tough love” with his teenaged child who has transgressed but is given a chance to redeem him/herself, change behavior and grow toward a rewarding mature life, Moses has been charged with reprimanding his people after the debacle of the Golden Calf and gives them incentive to reform. If they heed the commandments of Elohim, they will journey beyond the many hardships of the desert to realize the abundance that is waiting for them in Canaan. The splendors of the land of “milk and honey” are clearly delineated. After so many years of a sparse, dry diet, a colorful smorgasbord of seven life-enhancing, ripe, redolent, and delicious foods are stipulated and assured.
Although I set out to represent Parshat Ekev in a figurative manner thinking to illustrate aspects of the narrative and text, it appeared ordinary. Instead I chose to focus on the seven promised foods and first painted a more representational version of the foods. But this, too, seemed mundane. I ultimately elevated the physical nourishment into a spiritual realm. In noting the primitive quality of the belief system of the Children of Israel, who were so easily distracted to worship idols, I began to transpose each of the seven life giving foods into deities, each a specific “Shekinah”, the female aspect of Elohim, the creative spirit who nourishes in all ways, on all levels.
It is through this process that the current image for Parshat Ekev was born. As I added layer over layer of textured surface, the bevy of seven Shechinot became animated, alive and seemed to be conspiring in anticipation of the feast to come. Preparing to welcome and nourish the Children of Israel, each is clothed in crusty garments of the color representing from left to right, dates, olives, figs, pomegranates, wheat, barley and grapes. I see the galaxy of Shechinot as ancient palimpsests, totems, Venus of Villendorf-like icons, marking time and history, as if they were ancient goddesses newly discovered inscribed inside secret, crumbling cave walls.
Gilah Yelin Hirsch is an award winning interdisciplinary artist, writer, filmmaker, and scientist whose work spans the fields of art, psychology, philosophy, psychiatry, medicine, anthropology and architecture. While Hirsch holds the position of Professor of Art at California State University Dominguez Hills, (Los Angeles) and resides in Venice, California, her far ranging work is sourced in both solitary wilderness sojourns and exploration of world cultures. www.gilah.com