In one of our daily morning prayers, Eilu Devarim, we recite, “These are the things whose fruits we eat in this world but whose full reward remains in the World to Come…attending the dead.” Serving as a member of West Suburban Chevra Kadisha inspired me to create this artist’s book and visual installation that explores the sacred ritual of taharah (ritual preparation for burial). The silhouette wall hanging and the Jerusalem stone slab resting on cedar supports create the setting for the intimate narrative inside the aron (casket)-shaped book.
The specific materials used for the book are of equal importance to the visual images and selected portions of prayers and blessings. Behind the wooden cover, the viewer begins to unwrap the sovev (covering sheet), unveiling the layers of core practices, beginning with yetziat neshamah (departure of the soul) to hashvah (laying out).
Taharah - The Last Act of Kindness honors the men and women who have presided for centuries as members of the Chevra Kadisha (Holy Society) to perpetuate the sacredness of this mitzvah throughout the world.
Sylvia Ramos Alotta, an industrial designer and hand bookbinder, holds a BFA in Industrial Design from the Cleveland Institute of Art, and MFA in Book Arts and Paper from Columbia College Chicago. As a former Automotive Designer for the General Motors Corporation and as proprietor of DesignAlotta, her body of work reflects a diversity of achievements. She received a patent for UNDERAPS, a unique journal system, and authored The Exquisite Notes: An Artist’s Sketchbook on Bookbinding. She has exhibited internationally and taught at Columbia College Chicago, Morgan
Conservatory, Paper Book Intensive, and Southwest School of Arts and Crafts.