Contact firstname.lastname@example.org From North America: (510) 550 1173 In Israel: (077) 662 1230
Gilah Yelin Hirsch is an internationally recognized multidisciplinary artist, writer, filmmaker, theorist, lecturer and facilitator. Her work spans the realms of art, architecture, film, theology, philosophy, cross-cultural medicine and psychiatry, psychoneuroimmunology, anthropology of consciousness, science of consciousness and world culture. Hirsch is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including the National Endowment for the Arts, Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Fellowship, and the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energy and Energy Medicine’s Elmer and Alyce Green award for Innnovation. While Hirsch resides in Venice, California and holds the position of Professor of Art and Chair of the Art and Design Department at California State University, Dominguez Hills (Los Angeles), her encompassing and broad-based work requires frequent and extensive travels worldwide.
Reflections on Being a Jewish Woman Artist
I stem from a long line of Rabbis on my father’s side that originated in Byalistock, Poland. My great grandfather, Aryeh Leib Yelin, wrote the last entry into the Bavli Talmud, Yefeh Ainayim. My grandfather, Benjamin Yelin, came to Montreal and became Rosh Yeshivah of the Mitnagid group. My father, Ezra Yelin, was a Talmudic scholar. His cousin, David Yelin, immigrated to Israel and was responsible for the use of the Hebrew language used daily in the new state. Thus the relationship to Torah and Israel was established cellularly long before I was born into the family.
When I was 8 years old studying chumash in Montreal, I read the text in Hebrew but spoke and commented in Yiddish. Perplexed, I asked why we speak of God only in male terms as the pronouns in Hebrew are both male and female. My male Orthodox teachre became apoplectic, ran down the aisle of desks, grabbed me by my long red hair and threw me out of the class — forever. At ten I wrote Albert Einstein asking him how hecould reconcile being the world's greatest scientist and still believing in the God of the Old Testament. He wrote back saying, “…Always form your opinions according to your own judgment. You have shown in your letter that you are able to do so…” He died aweek later. I attended a Hebrew speaking summer camp (Massad, Canadian Laurentian Mountains) from age 5 to 16. Early on, I was the artist who annually created immense shlatim using only Hebrew letters to form the uniquely designed images. My first visit to Israel was at 14, when having won a Canadian national leadership prize, I was awarded asummer in Israel living and working with a family on moshav Kfar Neter. After attending first year university at McGill in Montreal, I returned to Israel to attend the Hebrew University, Jerusalem in 1962/63. A year ago I was invited to Tzfat to present my film Cosmography: The Writing of the Universe to the Cabalistic Rabbis and artists of that orthodox community.
Although I am not observant, my relationship to Judaism, Torah, Cabala is deeply engrained, and has always been expressed in my work.
When asked where the images in my paintings come from, I answer that they are the products of the lovemaking between the Ruach and the Shekinah. Although most ears are not familiar with this rather esoteric reference, once I explain it, all understand that thisvision emanates from deepest soul. My role in this almost voyeuristic venture is to be patient, allow for the unknown to be realized in its own time, be ready to make extreme changes at all times, be alert to the whispered call or the trumpeted request of the imageand to create the appropriate response — from the subtlest of washes to the boldest of patterns.
Messages in letters and words, usually in Hebrew, are intrinsic to these images. Often these are encrypted into the image becoming the structure of pattern or architecture, such as the image of Reconciliation being woven of the three Hebrew Cabalist “Mother letters” — aleph, mem, shin. At other times the letters stand as solitary gateways of form, as in Union, each Hebrew letter alone or in combination already encapsulating a Cabalistic state of the universe. Since childhood I have been fascinated by the power of the Hebrew alphabet as cosmic evocative form. And as an adult I developed a theory on the origin ofthe Hebrew alphabet and all subsequent alphabets as based in five patterns in nature that reflect the neurons and neural processes of perception (Cosmography: The Writing of the Universe).
I approach each work as a mystery which has to be discovered and revealed. The path of wonder and fascination leads me from one image to the next, not obliterating the last, but incorporating it into the subsequent history. Perhaps it can be seen as text and commentary built upon itself.
Much as a unique life is known only in its wake, so the images can only be known whenconcluded, the history of the image/personality intermittently revealed and concealed in the many layers of conception/behavior.
How does the process work? I begin with a random stroke of any line, shape or color. I wait until I am propelled to respond to this call. Not knowing where this is leading, I am fully swayed by what I feel and see, not by what I know. I follow this process for weeks and months, dropping transparent and translucent washes over existing images so that many layers are added, some obscuring while others revealing as yet unseen potential. I often turn the canvas to allow for even greater freshness of vision. Time passes while image gestates, changing 1,000 times. Much like the character of life, the new image evolves and is realized through infinite layers of experience. And yes, I (ego) join the Ruach and the Shekinah in the process of pro-creation by adding my own daily experiences, memories, dreams and associations to the layers either in imagery or words or both.
Having no concept as to what the image will become, I must sit with it daily for long periods. In fact half of the work is simply contemplating the current image at any time. What is it asking of me? It is often very demanding: "I need more light here, more dark here, tickle me here or there; perhaps this is not the appropriate direction after all... Drop a wash, a veil of light over the whole thing; start another layer to add to the visual history...."
Friends come to see the work. “What are you thinking? What are you looking at? Does it have a title?" The title grows along with the image.
Some months into the process, the image seems to stabilize. The title simultaneously takes form. Both are surprising. Soon, by adding greater light and dark, the image begins to "breathe". I realize at this point that the new image is being born, that my skills at this point are to be used in creating greater volume by adding light, dark, contrast, texture, thus extruding the initially reluctant image from the miasma of layers of possibility. It isshy in its imminence, but powerful in its emergence.
Perhaps this is analogous to the study of Torah. Letter by letter, each a cosmic image onits own, while in combination producing deeper multi-valenced images; stroke by stroke, wash by wash, the image grows into itself. While one is linear in time and space, theother is layered in time and space. I am lured deeper into the endless constellations of meanings of words standing on the same letters, such as Zohar/Zahir or Rachem/Rechem.
I am drawn into the infinite configuration of mysterious spaces produced by layered imagery and words. The process is endlessly riveting and revealing.
—July 24, 2008