The last portion of the book of Genesis, Vayehi, is read on Shabbat, Dec. 26, 2015. It begins with Jacob asking Joseph to bury him in the land of his fathers (Genesis 48:29) and ends with Joseph asking his family to bring him to the land that he promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 50:24, 25). To be physically rooted in the Land of Israel is the culminating idea of the first book of the Torah.
|Photograph taken by my talented grandson Or Alexenberg in the Negev where he lives|
I had developed a vocabulary of earth forces from my walks in the desert mountains stretching out from my home in Yeroham to the edge of the Great Crater that begins the drop to the Dead Sea, the lowest place on our planet. The desert is the best place to see the Earth’s skin. It is there that the shapes created by geological forces from beneath and by erosion of wind and water from above are most apparent. The desert landscapes that we see are but hardened moments of vast geological time not hidden by grass, by trees, by snow, or by buildings and pavement.
The vocabulary of earth forces that I developed from my encounters with the desert is the same vocabulary that I express through my clayscapes. It is an obvious, yet frequently overlooked fact that clay is earth. My clayscapes are made of earth and their subject matter is earth. After flash floods in the desert, I watched the wet earth dry out and crack into beautiful patterns like the skin of a giraffe. On the hillsides, erosion wrinkles the earth like the hide of an aged elephant. Sometimes the fast-moving water leaves patterns like the feathery frost on winter window panes or like the venation patterns of large tropical leaves.
My human-size sculptures are both like trees stripped of their branches by a forest fire and like helpless limbless Jews like my Dutch family whose lives were cut short by the Holocaust and whose branches were cut off from our family tree. My sculptures were exhibited at the National Jewish Museum in Washington, DC, to commemorate my mother's parents who perished in the fiery hell of Auschwitz. I shared my mother's grief at the loss of her entire family that stayed behind in Holland.