Pieces of the divine
Updated: Dec 13, 2022
The creation myth of the Kabbalah states that at the beginning of time, God constructed several divine vessels filled with holy light and sent them on a journey through the universe. However, along the journey, these delicate vessels shattered, spreading pieces of the divine across the world. God then created us, humanity, to explore the world, searching for these divine fragments so that the vessels could be made whole again.
I'm not a religious person, nor am I someone who feels much of a connection to "God" or the divine. However, when I heard this story, I felt a strong sense of recognition. The myth was expressing a truth about art that I had not been able to put into words.
I've often told myself that my art is about capturing beauty in everyday moments. But when I examine my motivation, I admit that I am searching for something beyond aesthetics. I am searching for moments of awe, moments that make me gasp, that arrest my attention. Moments where I step out of the everyday and enter the numinous. And while my paintings may fall short of capturing it, they point to something greater than their humble subjects would suggest.
I didn't always feel this way about painting. During my early years as a painter, and during the years when I almost stopped painting entirely, I went through the world focused more on the thoughts in my head than the reality of my surroundings. But in recent years, as my painting practice has developed, my attention has shifted towards these moments. At first, I noticed them only occasionally. However, the more I've begun to paint them, the more they seem to appear.
These moments often catch me off guard. Sometimes it is on my daily walk around my neighborhood, when I turn a corner to see a beam of sunlight illuminating the orange leaves of a plant in my neighbor’s yard. Other times, I am preparing fruit for an afternoon snack, and the light catches a slice of clementine just so, giving it a radiant glow. Or I am at a restaurant, and as I look up, I am captivated by the simple beauty of a scene of diners and wait staff silhouetted by the bright light of day streaming in. It is a visceral feeling, an energy that resonates within my body as these scenes appear, waking me from my thoughts into to the present moment.
I don’t know if what I am capturing can be considered “pieces of divinity,” but this myth has stuck with me. I like to believe it is true - that God is hiding in small, everyday things, waiting to be noticed. That if we look closely, we can all find pieces of the divine. Whether I can communicate that in my paintings may be a lifelong task, but it is a goal worth striving for.
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