Part 3 of @thehillelsmith ------- I'm very grateful and energized by being able to have made a career out of the work I do. There is a thirst for creative expression that includes Jewish content and reflects Jewish values, and I'm glad to have found my calling and my audience. But I think Jews as a whole are still struggling from the legacy of *Jewish* thinkers who didn't believe that it was possible to be a dedicated Jewish artist, there was any good Jewish art, or that Jews were even capable of it. This is so ingrained that they are either dismissive or apologetic when discussing it (see The 1905 Jewish Encyclopedia's suggestion that Jews take remedial art classes,Cecil Roth's “The conception of Jewish art may appear to some to be a contradiction in terms,” or the entire premise of "My Name is Asher Lev"). It's frustrating every time I get asked "are you allowed to do that?" Let's change this dynamic together. How amazing would it be to see the next generation of Jews get their hands dirty without hesitation?
At Hevria, most weeks we feature a Jewish artist to share their work and their stories. This week we are featuring @thehillelsmith ! There is an enormous wealth of Jewish content waiting to be mined for art. I especially enjoy playing with Hebrew letterforms to bring life to ancient texts. And this art has also given me the opportunity to engage more deeply with Jewish learning and ritual. I've also since discovered an entire history of Jewish art and design that is largely unknown, including graphic design and illustration from pre-War Europe, which has inspired me both creatively and philosophically. Those artists saw no saw no conflict between their artistic practice and their heritage. Moreover, many of them described their art as the performance of holy work in enriching the Torah with their talents and insight. I strive to be the next link in that chain, making Judaism relevant today and hopefully inspiring the next generation to do the same for themselves. If you want to see his work check out hillelsmith.info
We're back! Here at Hevria most weeks we feature an awesome Jewish artist, to share their work and their stories. This week we are featuring @thehillelsmith. -------- I've always loved making art, starting from when I could first hold crayons, and continuing through after school classes in grade school and later in college. Meanwhile, I was totally immersed in Jewish life, in Jewish school, camp, youth groups, and all that. But for a kid who loved comic books and street art, there really wasn't much Jewish art that I found interesting. I was convinced that my artist self and Jewish self would have to remain totally separate parts of me. It wasn't until I was in my mid-20s and experimenting with typography and thought to goof around with Hebrew that I made any Jewish work. The response from my friends was overwhelming--no one I showed it to had ever seen anything like it before--and they encouraged me to do more of it. Fast forward eight years later, making contemporary Jewish art is what I do for a living. Check out more of his work at hillelsmith.info
Each week Hevria will be featuring a different Jewish artist to share their art and their stories. This week we were honored to have @tzionaachishena. Coming to terms with being born Jewish helped me to connect to myself, and my essence, in a way that comes through in my music. It's just an important part of who I am. It also landed me in Israel, where the rhythms of this land shape my songs, and this placement has connected me with some of the most amazing Israeli musicians. I've be blessed to have Shye Ben Tzur record on my newest project, as well as many other amazing players. As Jews we tend to be seekers, searching out spirit, looking for meaning. Something inside of me is just happiest when my soul is awake, so I tend to want awakening experiences. Singing is the ultimate awakening experience, and it is here, all the time. That is what led me back to Rumi's poetry; it brings my heart to life, and holds this space for paradox which is really such a Jewish state of being. Somehow, we are meant to want to make the world better, while thanking Hashem for everything we have. Radically accepting reality as is, while visioning and praying for what is lacking. That is why my newest album is based on Rumi's poetry. He brings me though my intellect and beyond, to a state where I can somehow stand in the middle of these two realities: "Where is the place of His glory?" and..."The whole world is full of his glory." And my soul stops fighting, struggling. I find freedom in the spaciousness of the paradox.
Each week Hevria will be featuring a different Jewish artist to share their work and their stories. This week we are featuring @tzionaachishena! There was a time when I was very strict, we were living a kind of Chassidic lifestyle, and there were many times where I turned down opportunities to have my music featured on radio or TV. I also didn't use my own image to market my music. It was frustrating, because I felt like I was taking two steps forward and one step back. I was also considered for a record deal, but they felt that my location in Israel was too far for touring, etc...I guess I felt like I was choosing a spiritual life over a successful music career. In a way I am lucky: I've been able to continue creating all along, without getting caught in the traps of ego and burnout that musicians often trip over. It's been all totally grassroots and word of mouth. I have been successful, but perhaps by different standards. One thing that was really awful was when I was married, I didn't feel free to sing at home. It was so terrible to feel silenced in my own home. But I can't blame that on Judaism; it was more like some kind of mutation of Judaism that shows how disconnected we can become from our source. There is more and more of an awareness now about the erasing and silencing of women. It's ironic that my life's path is all about my voice, and helping other women to find their voices, and yet I fell into such a silencing trap. I would only sing in my studio, or at concerts. But not at the Shabbes table. That still burns. I also didn't make music videos for a long time for the same reasons, or, when I did, they were hidden away on YouTube, and you had to have the link to find them. In recent years I have relaxed about that, and I actually love the medium. Recently I did a video with the Layer's Project Magazine @thelayersproject , a live version of Shakira's "Try Everything" in Gan Sacher, and another video for my song "I Have Everything I Need Right Now", which was really fun and felt radical because it features a male dancer.
Each week, Hevria will be featuring a different Jewish artist to share their art and their stories. This week we are featuring musician Tziona Achishena @tzionaachishena ! I definitely identify as a Jewish artist. Much of my music has been in #Hebrew, or has had Jewish themes, like my Water Castle album, which is based on a Rebbe Nachman story called the 7 Beggars. At the time that I was making that album, I was dealing with get refusal that went on for a few years. In the story, there is a King that is holding his Queen captive, and won't let her leave because he doesn't want another man to have her. Reading a story like this from within the #Jewish tradition made me feel that I was still a part of #AmYisrael, even though I felt kind of invisible in the pain I was experiencing. So for me, connecting to the richness of our traditions has been both inspiring and healing. At the same time, I feel that, as an artist, there is something universal in my soul that connects me to people, to art, to music of all cultures. And that universal part is building bridges. #RavKook writes about 4 levels of song: the personal, the national, the song of humanity, and the song of creation. So the fact that I hear, and that I need to sing, all these types of song, doesn't make me any less of a #Jewishartist. Maybe it just makes me more human. And more aware of the songs hidden in Hashem's #creation.
Every week Hevria will be featuring a different Jewish artist to share their work and their stories. This week we are lucky to have Chaya Malka Spillman! -------- When I'm feeling intuitively ready, I turn to the paints! Whatever idea is calling to me most strongly is the direction I choose to progress in a session. I allow myself to flow (i don't censor myself) and trust myself that I'm going where I need to go. 💛🌛✨"
Every week Hevria will be featuring a different #Jewishartist to share their work and their stories. This week we are lucky to have Chaya Malka @cms_in_spirit ------------ When I am feeling called to create a piece, I try to set up a creative environment that can also support sacred time to be with G!d. I create art solitarily, and I often read holy texts (the week's parsha/torah portion, books on nature, poetry that inspires me) - then ill usually pray, meditate, stretch my body, and open my spirit to inspiration.
Every week Hevria will be featuring a different Jewish artist to share their work and their stories. This week we are featuring Chaya Malka Spillman. @cms_in_spirit As I get older, I am learning to trust my inner intuitive voice, and i realize that my purpose is to develop my spiritual self here in this world. And as I explore what that idea means to me, creating art and developing my inner Jewish spirituality are now intertwined concepts.
Every week, Hevria will be featuring a Jewish artist and their stories. This week we're glad to feature Talia Carbis. Check out her profile @taliamakesart for more of her work and her YouTube channel! I find Judaism to be just the most beautiful and uplifting thing in my life. Art gives me an opportunity to share my unique Jewish voice, and not feel inhibited or like I have to have all the answers. There are aspects of Orthodox Judaism that I struggle with, and art gives me a safe place to explore these topics and find what works for me. I can’t imagine my artistic world without Judaism now. I feel like it would be void of depth and “realness” if I were to pull the two apart.
Each week Hevria will be featuring a different Jewish artist and telling their stories. This week we're honored to feature @taliamakesart . I used to use Saturdays as a chance to make time for art. To me this made sense because I was doing something relaxing and enjoyable on the Sabbath. But as I became more observant I had to find other times in the week to make art, and give up this personal pursuit during Shabbat. This was difficult because I’m a mum with young kids at home, and my days in the week are pretty full! I still don’t have it all figured out, but I’m trying. I think even when it seems like observance “limits” us, in reality Hashem is teaching us something important. The thing that I learnt from all of this is that I should be making art a priority throughout my week - not something that I only have time for on a rest day once a week! It challenged me to add “art time” to my to do list each day, and see it as just as important as vacuuming my floors, or picking up after my kids!
Sorry for the week delay! We needed a break. Either way, every week Hevria is featuring a different #Jewishartist and their stories. This week we are honored to be featuring Talia Carbis @taliamakesart ! Do you identify as a Jewish artist? Or just an artist? I identify as a artist primarily, and a Jewish artist secondarily. My work explore many topics, though I have to admit that Judaism does seem to permeate most of it in some way or another! Maybe I should reconsider how I label myself! How does Judaism inspire your work? At this stage Judaism is so much a part of me that it just trickles into most art I do. Sometimes only a Hebrew world will feel “right” in my art journaling, other times I want to explore an aspect of Judaism more in my art journal. Last year I did a small art journal series on a miscarriage I had. Even though I didn’t specifically mention G-D or Judaism in what I created, I felt like because Judaism shaped how I saw and experienced this life event, and in that way it was still a part of the work. #Judaism inspires my artwork because it influences the way I see and experience things, and my artwork is a reflection of who I am. I can’t separate Judaism from my work in as much as I can’t seperate myself from Judaism.
I know my music will always be a part of my life, but right now I consider myself a searching artist- searching for an art that I am passionate about, that is not limited by my Jewish observance. I have tried many other media, including watercolor, drawing and hand lettering. I enjoy these things and like to do them in my spare time, but they don’t really do it for me. I have a few things I am going to try in the world of fiber arts and see if my soul stirs with those like it did with my music. I have hope that I will find something. All I know for certain is that I have a LOT of creative energy. I just have to find the right place to channel it. Follow me @soulbirdlife to see what I come up with. I am currently practicing as a clinical social worker in Chicago and plan on using my instagram as a platform for mental health psychoeducation, for my art, and on how the two connect. Once an artist, always an artist. In the meantime, here is a link to my music on soundcloud: https://m.soundcloud.com/user-209789808
Every week we are featuring a different Jewish artist to tell us about their life as a #creativeJew. I decided to study at the University of Illinois. It was closer to home, but far enough away I could live my own life. There was a good Jewish life there that would support my growth- a Hillel with a JLIC program, a Chabad, and and AISH program. I knew some people who went there already. It was safer in a more holistic sense. But they did not have a music therapy program. So I decided to study social work. I figured it was the next best thing, and my music would continue to be my hobby. Maybe I could incorporate it in my professional work someday. But my music fell to the side over the years and I kind of lost my connection with it. Over the years I have come back to it, and written a song here or there, but it has never been the same. My yiddishkeit has influenced the music I have written since becoming religious, but I never connected to writing outwardly religious music. I considered my music to be Jewish music because I, the writer, was Jewish, not because the music itself was Jewish. Being a religious female singer in the observant Jewish world is extremely limiting (unless you live in NY where there is more going on, but even then…) Also, I find it hard to just turn on my creative brain. In the past I always felt like when I wrote a song it just came to me… flowed out naturally. That doesn’t just happen anymore.
Every week Hevria is featuring a different Jewish artist, this week we are lucky enough to have musician @soulbirdlife! I was a Jew before I was an artist, but I was an artist before I knew what it meant to be a Jew. I started writing music when I learned to play guitar at age 12. I wrote my first song after my first guitar lesson using 3 chords. I also took voice lessons and was a part of my high school’s choir. I went into a recording studio to record my songs over the course of many years. Music was my heart and soul. I felt it was a release of my deepest emotions, and enabled me to connect to myself in the deepest way. I began learning more about yiddishkeit in high school, and took on a Torah observant lifestyle the summer after high school graduation. I went to Israel that fall to learn and immerse myself even more. I applied to Berklee School of Music in Boston to study music therapy. I was accepted to start the following year. I was torn. I had just become observant. I had changed my whole lifestyle. My world was shifting under my feet. Kol isha was confusing. I would have to board at a family’s house in Brookline. I really did not want to live with a family I didn’t know. I didn’t feel internally safe moving to a new city where I didn’t know anyone. I wasn’t solid in my yiddishkeit yet- in this new life I was slowly embracing. The environment would make it hard to maintain all the changes I had just made. I felt like I needed a safe holding environment as I went through all these changes. But I also didn’t want to loose my music. But I figured I would never let my passion fade.
Every week here on the Hevria Instagram we will be featuring a different #Jewishartist . This week we're honored to have @sefiracreative! My community has always been supportive and motivational. Sometimes I even feel as though my community believes in me, more than I believe in myself. The only time I ever experienced negative feedback was when I wrote the words "fuck jew hatred" on a piece that was my reaction to the attack in Pittsburgh. I got responses from trolls on social media telling me that if I curse then I'm not religious. I LOVED the pushback, because it meant that my artwork had a lot of impact.
Every week here on the Hevria Instagram we will be featuring a different #Jewishartist . This week we're honored to have @sefiracreative! I don't consider myself to be the most spiritual person and I often am a little bit of a religious rebel. But what inspires me the most about Judaism is our history and our spirit. I love learning about all the different pieces that make up our enriched religion/culture. I'm inspired by our commonalities, the traditions that every Jew has done for thousands of years that has united us beyond time and distance. I'm inspired by our persistence as a people, and our resistance to thrive beyond our persecution and struggles. I love learning about our core beliefs and customs that define who we are. As I expressed earlier, observance and religion have never been the roadblock to my creative career. I am a baal teshuvah, however my coming closer to religion is defined by a rather unique perspective. I was around 13 years old when my family became religious and as a teenager, I hated every step of the way. It's a long story of how I went from hating being religious to becoming religious, and filled with many nuances. However, the reason why I bring it up now is that as a rebel at heart, I never wanted to let religion be the reason to sacrifice parts of my identity. It's a common narrative I experienced around baal teshuvah friends, who had felt their creativity had no place in religion and maybe even thought it could have been avoda zara, or not tznius. I have never felt this way and actually was very angered by those decisions.