I’m Rivka And I’m Thunderstruck

At 16 years old, on a whim, I enrolled in a high school art class. The teacher, Mr. Montgomery, artistically embraced me as I had never been before. My drawings and paintings, messy and full of stormy emotions, were praised. I, invigorated and transformed, fell in love with the two dimensional form.

I fixated primarily on figure drawing; nudes. But not nudes simply standing or posing so that the viewer could enjoy the delicately muted quiet splendor of the human form. Rather, nudes that were shouting, pleading, pulling, thinking. I couldn’t stop shouting these questions onto the pliable canvas:

Can you see how breathtakingly beautiful the “imperfect” body is? Do you see an exquisite masterpiece of sinew,muscle, and bone, all working perfectly in unison? Do you realize how much we have to say beyond our physical containers?

I delighted in folds of fat and unusual shapes. My work had a feminist spin: Society, I felt, put these ultra-thin waifs just standing silently as our idols. I specifically wanted to showcase the power, beauty, and voice of women, especially women of all shapes and sizes. Alongside many drawings and paintings, I included written inspiration that fed into the images.


Dancing, 30″X 34″,2001 Charcoal on Paper

In my second year of college studying painting, I went on a Birthright trip. I was thunderstruck by the collective Jewish sense of family and feeling of closeness to Gd in the air. With my eyes gazing upon the Kotel walls, I stood aghast with one thought:

I’m standing the closest I’ve ever been to Gd and I have nothing to say.

Though I had attended Shabbat services for ten years at that point, I had somehow never learned how to pray. I had my own words, of course, but I yearned to read from the siddur, from the prayer book designed to reach Gd in the words fashioned by Jewish sages throughout history.

This, I vowed, was unacceptable. In the next 5 years, I made four round trip journeys to Israel to study. My artwork and writing suddenly took another spin:

Do you realize all the profound things that Judaism has to say? Do you understand the beauty of Israel? The communal magic of the Jewish people ?

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Emancipation, 20″ X 24 “, 2004, etching

As I become a mother, my artwork and subject matter took another spin. I couldn’t get enough of describing what was a truly jaw-breaking experience:

Do you realize that every single person you know slid out of his/her mother’s body? Do you understand the intense miracle that is pregnancy and birth? Do you feel the unspoken triumph and struggle of the modern day mother?

Abundant Blessings, 18″ X 24″,2013, acrylic on canvas

My artwork and my writing are always intertwined. Every picture captures something that the writing could never fully grasp. Each written piece brings the viewer clearer to the particulars of my mind’s eye and perspective represented in the visual form.

Visual art appears to me as the emotions before they are unpacked; the kabbalistic term chochma, the seminal drop of everything I’m trying to elucidate captured in an instant. Writing, is the glorious bina, the development of an idea into thought, that allows me to articulate for myself and others what is whirling around in the awe and confusion of my brain. My writing nurtures my art and my art feeds my writing. Mashpia, feeds the mekabel, mekabel feeds the mashpia. They are both critical to my expression and my processing of the world.

As the years go on and my experiences change, my artwork and writing shifts alongside me. The one thing that remains the same is my deep conviction that the highest aim of all art is as a conduit for saying something. For elucidating an idea that many people may even have thought before, but never truly, deeply grasped. Art is our mechanism for integrating what is really going on in this world, right at the tips of our noses, if only we could bring ourselves to see it.

My artwork and writing always begin with a simple, human experience of being thunderstruck by the intensity, beauty, or disunity of something, and wanting to bring that experience out through words and images, in order to connect us and bring us higher. In order to spurn us to action.

I am honored to become a part of Hevria, a group of people committed to plunging deep within and bringing out the kernels of truth that are pleading to be spoken through them.