Sara M. Novenson, Contemporary Jewish Art—Blog

Join me in Denver on Jan 23

Celebrating “Miriam, Devorah and the Song of the Birds”FlyingBetweenTwoWorlds_xlg“Flying Between Two Worlds”

I will be in Denver speaking and exhibiting my work on
Saturday, January 23rd at
Temple Rodef Shalom
450 South Kearney Street
Denver, Co
303. 399.0035

Please come and join me in Denver on Shabbat Shira the Shabbat of Song. I will be speaking about three of my favorite subjects of this Shabbat Celebration; Miriam, Devorah and the Song of the Birds! On this Shabbat called Shabbat Shira (Shabbat of Song) we read from the Song of the Sea, The Song of Devorah and we honor my favorite creatures; The Birds!

Here are the details of the Events;

Saturday – 9:30 am -Shabbat Morning Services- Honoring Shabbat Shira, the Sabbath of Song, with a presentation on “Miriam, Devorah and the Songs of the Birds.
Saturday – 6:00 pm – End of Shabbat Shmooze, Havdalah & SpecialPresentation With Sara Novenson and Rabbi Gerson
Saturday- 7:00 pm – Sara Novenson Art show and Cocktail Party

Please enjoy browsing through my latest work as well as long time favorites on my new website.

Click here to visit my website >

From Lilith Magazine about Sara Novenson

lilith-logo

June 15, 2015, by

This Artist Teaches Woman Power

Red Tree Painting
© 2012 Sara M Novenson, Evening’s Flight,” Archival Pigment Print.

The first thing you notice when looking at Sara M. Novenson’s paintings are the colors: Rich and vibrant, the blues, pinks, purples, reds and yellows invite you to peer closely, and whether you’re perusing her Great Women of the Bible series or her landscapes, the limited-edition work is striking. What’s more, most of Novenson’s art is bordered by hand-painted Hebrew letters—excerpts from the Psalms as well as blessings—that remind us to appreciate the miracle of creation.

Collectors of Novenson’s work include actor Fran Drescher, the late musician Frank Zappa (1940-1993) and the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York and she has had exhibitions throughout much of the world. Novenson has also run her own gallery on Santa Fe, New Mexico’s famed Canyon Road since 1996.

A reviewer, writing in the Santa Fe Focus, describes her creations as “dazzling,” with “life-inspiring rays of sun and people shimmering with power and beauty.” But most notable, the reviewer wrote, is “the female energy and spirituality” each painting exudes.

This, Novenson told Lilith, is exactly what she intended. In fact, her Women of the Bible series aims to imbue viewers with a better understanding of female power, and whether they’re seeing images of Deborah, Esther, Hannah, Judith, Leah, Miriam, Naomi, Rachel, Rebecca, Ruth or Sarah, she hopes they’ll walk away feeling “empowered from both within and without.”

Take her painting of Judith. Dressed in gold, Judith is holding a menorah high above her head, a stance indicating her triumph over General Holofernes, the hated military henchman of Assyrian King Nebuchadnezzar. “Judith was the widow of a judge,” Novenson begins. “Shortly after her husband’s death a spy came to the hills where the Jews lived and informed them that they were about to be attacked. Holofernes had already begun withholding water from the community so it was only a matter of time before everyone was going to die of dehydration.”

Judith Painting
© 2012 Sara M Novenson. “Judith” from the Women of the Bible Series and the Book Illuminated Visions, Women of the Bible, Archival Pigment Print.

Judith, Novenson continues, prayed about the situation and then took off her mourner’s black, put on beautiful clothing and jewelry, and went to where Holofernes was staying. He was attracted to her and invited her to a banquet where he proceeded to get really drunk. “He later invited her back to his tent. She went, but when she got there she took a sword from the wall and cut his head off. Without Judith, the Maccabees would not have happened. She helped them see that it was possible to resist tyranny.”

As she tells Judith’s story, Novenson sounds both awestruck and proud. “Judith asked God to work through her and had the courage to take action. She used her mind to figure out what she needed to do. Maybe she was really afraid, but she did it anyway,” she gushes.

Other women in the series are similarly powerful, she says, a dramatic mix of ferocity, fortitude, strength and sass.

“Painting for me is a prayer of gratitude,” Novenson explains, and regardless of subject – whether she is depicting people or the world’s natural beauty – she says that her efforts bring her face-to-face with “the presence of God.” Particularly important, she says, is the light and color of New Mexico’s topography.

“Blessing of the Sun, Violet," Archival Pigment Print. © Sara M Novenson 2012

A transplant – Novenson grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey and graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City – she fell in love with the US west as a five-year-old, when her family took a cross-country car trip to California that included a stopover somewhere in New Mexico. “Even as a kid, I knew I did not belong in New York City,” she laughs.

She also knew that she had to make art. Her dad was an amateur photographer and before she was eight, she’d learned to develop film in his darkroom. By 12, she was taking the bus into Manhattan for summer classes at the Art Students’ League, but a desire to move west nagged at her. After college, she headed to Albuquerque. “I was painting a lot there,” she says, “and doing graphic design, making jewelry and waiting tables to get by, but I moved back to New York in 1980 because I felt that there were not enough art opportunities for me in New Mexico. Nonetheless, I promised myself that after a few years, I’d move back.”

In 1984, however, Novenson married a musician; when he got a job with the Radio and TV Orchestra of Cologne, Germany, the pair moved abroad. Although Novenson had been reared in a religiously observant family, it was only after she got to Germany that the need to make explicitly Jewish art became apparent to her. “It was weird,” she explains. “I’d walk into a restaurant for dinner and get these awful feelings. I’d later learn that the site had once been in the heart of the Jewish community.” She was also shocked, she says, to discover that many European Jews still kept silent about their heritage.

“Isaac Bashevis Singer became my favorite writer when I was living in Germany,” she says. “I Ioved his stories. They were visceral, as if the words formed paintings that I could actually see. One night, my husband was on the road and I was reading “Satan in Goray,” a story about one of the pogroms of the 1600s. It was very descriptive, very scary to me. I decided I had to stop reading and turned on the TV. And there he was: Isaac Bashevis Singer was being interviewed. I’d recently read his short story “There Are No Coincidences,” so I was absolutely stunned by the synchronicity. It inspired me to begin studying Jewish folk art and learn about all the work that had been wiped out by the Holocaust. At that point I also started visiting every Jewish museum I could get to in Europe.”

Novenson eventually left her spouse, returned to New York, and, in 1992, kept her promise to herself by moving to Santa Fe. She has since immersed herself in study of Torah, Midrash and Kabbalah, an effort that has been incorporated into her paintings, illustrations and drawings. Art, she says, is her way of honoring the struggles and triumphs of her fore-parents. But she does more than this. Her lectures about Jewish art, folk traditions and Biblical heroines have taken her to every corner of the US – including churches and other non-Jewish venues.

It’s clear that Novenson, now 61, loves juggling scholarship with creativity.

She is currently at work on a 13th portrait in the Women of the Bible series and frequently travels to the Chama River to paint the birds, flora and fauna that live and grow there. As she breathes in the landscape, she says that one particular Psalm resonates most loudly: “With You is the source of life. By the light may we see light.”

And we do.

In The Shelter of Shekina’s Wings

Shelter of Shekina's Wings
Shelter of Shekina’s Wings

These are the Sand Hill Cranes at the Bosque Del Apache, A wildlife refuge on the Rio Grande in New Mexico.

To me, the Sand Hill Cranes are one of the most graceful, elegant, gorgeous creatures on this earth.  Hearing the beautiful primordial sounds of their calls before they come into sight brings such a feeling of reverence to my heart that I am brought to tears.  And then they arrive.  I feel as though I am a privileged outsider being allowed to glimpse into their secret world.  As they begin to land, I admire their beauty and try to imagine the distance they have flown and the trials they have gone through to safely glide into their winter home on the Rio Grande.  I am so grateful they have made it.

Every year I visit the Bosque at least once during the winter season.  It is one of my greatest sources of inspiration, rejuvenation and joy.

In the Jewish mystical tradition, the Shekina is the feminine aspect of G-d.  It is the level of G-d that is closest to the physical, therefore birthing the physical “into being” from the upper realms.  The Shekina is often depicted as wings or birds (specifically the Dove).  I feel the presence of the Shekina in these Sand Hill Cranes.  Their huge wings seem to shelter us in their knowing comfort and wisdom of the heavenly realms.

Painting at the Chama, Lessons from the River

Image
I have been painting at the Chama for over 20 years. It is my personal heaven.

When I arrive at my spot in the overlook, everything else in the world seems to float away with the current of this beautiful river.Morning of Joy, Chama RiverWhile in this state of grace, all that matters are the colors, the sounds and the smells that I am engulfed by.  Every single time I paint there, I am delighted and surprised by the diversity of the beauty, the light, the season, the trees.  The color of the river changes from moment to moment. The colors vary from season to season. I feel like a child in a candy store.  One moment the  entire river is a gorgeous turquoise, an instant later a cloud passes over the sun, and the violets show their glory.  The shadows cast along the riverbanks change, according to the fullness of the trees, the time of day and the season.

This river is my old familiar friend. As I sit and paint, I can “feel” the “personality and essence” in every tree, rock and plant.

 Since I return to this spot year after year, season after season these trees are like family to me.   One of them is grumpy and strong.  Another is graceful like a beautiful ballet dancer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis one in the foreground is my favorite.  She leans forward towards the earth, trunk gnarled, her branches spread out towards the heavens yet seemingly embracing the earth at the same time.  Guardian like.  Their subjects, in the form of colorful shrubs and younger trees, surround the mature trees like royalty.

Lessons from the Spirit of the River

As I am always comparing everything I see in the outer world to our lives and inner worlds, I feel the river and the landscape is an analogy that reflects the nature of life.  Every moment changes.  What surprises will it hold?  We ourselves try to hold onto the moment not noticing that the wind has changed or the clouds have just turned the river from turquoise into a beautiful violet. As I sit and paint and observe and feel the blessing of the beauty of our environment, I become aware of this.  More accepting.  Seeing the changes that come upon nature moment by moment, without judgment, without holding on, calms me and I accept my thoughts as passing clouds.  I can easier accept what comes into my life moment by moment without resistance. Many people come by to see what I am doing and to say hi.  Although I am in a “painting trance” I try to remember not to resist. Who knows what I might be missing when I am in that place of resistance? Sometimes I do speak with the people and the conversations themselves are like the river changing, a brief glimpse into someone else’s amazement at the beauty of the river, the magnificence of the color and the majesty of nature.

In many ways the overlook is akin to a place of worship.  Everyone’s attention is on the presence of this awesome beauty spread out before us, and I believe, we  cannot help but to become aware of the invisible intelligence, which from the unseen, this beauty manifests.

My Father’s Tallit and the Great Women of the Bible

May 4, 2010

My Father’s Tallit and the Great Women of the Bible

What, you may ask; does a Jewish woman artist’s father’s tallit have to do with her art and her series of the Great Women of the Bible? I myself had not thought about this until last Tuesday after speaking to my fantastic art photographer Wendy McEhearn. I had called to ask her to shoot my milestone project, a limited edition box set of my Women of the Bible containing their stories and several short stories I had written. This project is a culmination of 10 years of studying, painting and writing. “Do you have a prayer shawl she asked?” Wendy McEhearn as you can tell by her name is not a Jewish woman. At this moment an emotional shock went through my psyche and body. It was one of those out of body moments. “The only prayer shawl I own is my father’s tallit.” “Bring it along to the shoot” she answered casually, having no idea how I was overcome with emotion. My mother gave me my father’s tallit after his death. I have always treasured it, bringing it out only for the high holy days when I wear it to honor his beautiful memory.

Now I had an even greater way to honor my father. I would have my milestone project photographed on his tallit. DESPITE the fact that my father was a man, he carried the traits of the Great Women of the Bible more so than many women I know. He had the power of prayer and faith of Hannah, the fullness of the love that Rachael carried, the closeness to G-d that Sarah embodied and the great generosity of spirit that emanated from Rebecca . My father sent me to craft classes from the age of four, the Art Students League in the summers of high school (we lived nearby, I took the subway), and the School of Visual Arts in NYC for my BFA. He was an artist in his own right. He stretched my canvases for me, framed my art, and together we went shopping for my first easel. My fondest memory of the synagogue as a child (truthfully there are few) is sitting beside my father as he sang the psalms with joy in his voice, an aura of love and faith surrounding him (like Sarah) draped in his tallis. When the children’s services were over, I was proudly welcomed in the seat he always saved for me beside him. Continue reading My Father’s Tallit and the Great Women of the Bible

Autumn’s New Work

Autumn’s New Work

One of my favorite motifs is the Sandia Mountains during autumn at sunset. Sometimes, there is a moment when the mountains turn into a rainbow and the Chamisa flowers glow as if they carry the light of the sun within themselves.

image of Blessing of the Sun

I find both of these Psalms so appropriate for the  image.

image of Blessing of the Sun Violet

“Blessing of the Sun,Violet”
“With you is the source of life, by your light may we see light.”  Psalms

image of The Blessing of the Sun, Orange
“Blessing of the Sun, Orange”

“How can I sing of Heaven and Earth when it is G-d who decreed them?”  Psalms

Each of these hand painted limited editions are available in 3 different sizes and price points starting at $105.00, $320. and %560.00 unframed.  Click on images for more info and to order. The size of the pieces on my site are the paper sizes, the images are smaller.

Future Workshops

The Women of the Bible workshop at Ghost Ranch was very successful.  I will be facilitating workshops next year and will keep you posted via emails, my blog and web site.

The Women of the Bible Workshop at Ghost Ranch

Our week together exploring the Women of the Bible was wonderful.  Rabbi Paula Winning of NYC was our surprise co teacher, as Rabbi Mindy Portnoy who was scheduled to co teach could not attend. Several of the children and grandchildren joined us, making this a truly inter-generational event. The workshop was interfaith as well.

One of our participants Linda Anderson Little, of St Louis, is a Lutheran Pastor and as I stood next to her during our little Shabbat lighting service with Rabbi Winning, I felt a beautiful Shekina like presence emanating from her. Spirit surely is one! Everyone loved the hands on monoprinting technique we used to create out art and the teachings were great!  Of course Ghost Ranch is one of the most beautiful and mysterious places to spend time.  I am up there for at least 3 weeks a year alone painting as it is one of my greatest spots for inspiration and regeneration. For me, sharing this place with the women in our workshop was so poignant and touching and amplified the special feeling and spirituality of the land and sky at Ghost Ranch.

Workshops at Ghost Ranch

I will be co- teaching a workshop at Ghost Ranch with an amazing woman Rabbi, Mindy Portnoy of Temple Sinai in Washington DC. Mindy is  a well-known author of 5 Children’s books
The workshop is entitled: Pages in Our Book of Life, From our Biblical Ancestors to Our Descendants. June 21-27, 2010. Ghost Ranch is in Abiquiu, New Mexico, 1 hour from Santa Fe. Georgia OKeeffe the famous painter lived on the ranch at one time. It is a gorgeous, mystical setting for such a workshop. Through art and writing we will delve into the archetypes of the Women of the Bible and discover the similarities from our foremothers, and among ourselves. We will create family heirlooms that can be handing down to daughters and grandchildren. Go to ghostranch.org to sign up for our workshop!

JUDITH from my Women of the Bible Series