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Janet Shafner z"l, USA
Hukkat: Fire & Water
In the parshah of Hukkat, in 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.
August 30, 1931 – August 2, 2011
Janet Shafner a painter whose work draws on Biblical themes, brought ancient stories into a contemporary sensibility. She exhibited extensively over a distinguished career that includes a retrospective of her work at the Lyman Allyn Museum in New London, and a solo show at the Yeshiva University Museum in New York City.
Reflections on Being a Jewish Woman Artist
Hukkat in process
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.