The members of Jewish Artists Collective Chicago write about our stories, struggles, experiences, and musings, and how they inspire us to create contemporary Jewish art.
Art and Text by Jane Weintraub
I am an artist living in the time of COVID. Life as we know it is on pause, but my senses are not. I can still touch, taste, hear, smell and especially see. In March, my serious studio practice was put on hold as I got used to the new state of affairs – learning how to live with lock down. One of the few things that did not change were my daily walks. I have been an avid walker for years and with less to “do” my walks became one of the central foci of my days. How do I evolve as an artist when my activity in the studio is contracting?
Part of my practice as a Jew encompasses Mussar, a Jewish mindfulness practice that cultivates one’s inner life through awareness of character traits. It involves the study of middot – the tackling of virtue-based ethics. One of the first principles of this study is hitllamdut which helps one develop a stance of curiosity and openness towards all of life’s experiences. It asks us to be present and notice. I remind myself each day to really see where I am, to appreciate nuances and subtleties – to not take things for granted.
And how do I tie this practice to my daily walks – walks which always bring me sense of renewal? I set intentions and document these intentions photographically. On the days that I choose to practice this heightened awareness during my walks, I pick a subject and see how many times that topic presents itself. So far, my subjects have been primary colors, secondary colors, lines, circles/spheres, and patterns to name a few. I would then come home and make a rather crude digital collage and post it on Facebook. Even though this does not fit in with my “serious” work, it keeps me looking and when I really look I perceive the world in a creative way. I forget for the moment about my current worries and relax into what is in front of me at that moment – mindfulness at its best.