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Mending Spirit: An Interview with D’vorah Horn

Ritualwell is excited to introduce a new series of interviews with Jewish artists on art and spirituality. Our first featured artist is D’vorah Horn. Learn more about Mending Spirit: Art for Healing and support their fundraising campaign, ending soon.

1. Al regel akhat, on one foot: Tell us about your latest Jewish art project.

Mending Spirit is a healing arts organization I created to bring art, art activities and artists into locations where the challenges of daily life are great. The sites where Mending Spirit projects are placed are often hugely underserved, where clients as well as caretakers are stressed and traumatized and where there is little or no funding, time, or energy for art. For me creating this organization in 2014 was an act of Tikkun Olam. We do not charge the institution for our activities, this would make it impossible for the neediest of places to experience what we have to offer. Our only source of funding is individual donations. 

The central project of Mending Spirit is an exhibit of over 60 Healing Window Paintings which I created over 10 years. These paintings are created on clear plastic to enable them to be safely placed in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, senior living communities, public buildings, and private settings. They can be directly placed on a windowpane, or framed and easily suspended in front of any window. In the daylight the paintings glow, much like stained glass. They are translucent, revealing some, but not all, of the scene outside. When the sun comes through, the colors radiate and are cast upon window sills, floors, and people. The healing quality of the paintings comes from the images and colors, the energy, movement and texture of the paint and the effect these aspects have when they respond to light and emanate out from the surface. Each painting is created with the conscious intention of healing, of “Mending Spirit.” 

2. Describe your artistic process for this particular project.

In order to begin a Healing Painting something inspires me, from nature especially, and I paint a window piece. I also have painted on inspiration from a study of and relating to the ten sefirot. They take time, layering, and arranging a very limited hot pallet of paint, but worthwhile in its effect in the end. Sometimes a site we are going to has a particular window I want to fill and I get a special piece of Plexiglas created and paint that. I have as an ultimate goal the dream of filling a site with site-specific pieces that stay there forever, perhaps collaborated on with the constituency of that site. I visit a potential site, take pictures, print out images of all 61 of my pieces to date, and arrange them for installation. When we install we often make changes. Then there are follow up activities that enhance the infusion of art into the site. For instance a reception where I speak on the project and the healing qualities of art. We create informed pieces. When we are able collaborations are made where individuals paint on small cut shapes of plexi and I collage them into a larger piece, then gift them to the site. Often we are able to include flower arranging and a musician for at least one visit to the site. 

3. What sources inspire you? 

Sefer Yetzirah, I–Ching (the versions from the Cosmic way and the Toltec), Tarotpy (http://dreamsandtarot.com/tarotpy.htm), Jungian dream work, Dr. Clarissa Pincola Estes, Marion Woodman, Reb Nachman of Bratslov, etc.

4. Is the process of artistic creation one that you would consider to be spiritual? Why or why not? 

Yes—focusing on seeing spirit in all matter is what I meditate on daily, how I try to see the world. Creative action is an expression of spirit (life force) in the world. 

5. How do you reinvigorate your process if you feel uninspired?

The problem is never a lack of inspiration. That may sound cavalier, but the truth is I am inspired all the time. The issue is the creative fire, sometimes it burns bright and the creativity flows, sometimes it is an ember waiting for the breath of life. This is always the way with creativity; it never dies, it is burning below the surface. To get myself out of my head—that is another story. It is never about the creativity or enough ideas. Being in my head is the messaging, ”am I doing enough, will I make enough money, will I get the work out there, do I even care about that, can I spend this money on the work, will people support the work?” … These are my messages that keep the oxygen from reaching the embers. So what I do, often, is start a ritual practice (like painting on the Omer or my teshuvah practice of turning-returning), to meditate, and pray like H… 

6. What are your favorite materials to work with and why?

I love the paint for the Healing Window series, it is both fluid and textured and layered but it is also a bit unforgiving. Which is good, it keeps me from getting into addiction to perfection. On my wall pieces, which for now are not part of a Mending Spirit activity, I work with paper, wood, ink, cloth, found materials, oil paint and encaustic to create textured and deep surfaces that express the unspoken. One of my materials in this sense is the set of intentions I use to inspire and direct my creative expression such at The Counting of the Omer and a teshuvah practice. 

7. Why do think it is important to include Jewish subject matter in your art?

The Jewish subject matter in my art is not separate from all that makes up who I am, and therefore all I express. I cannot say I include it because I think that it is important, as in special, it is part of what I came into this life with, that is all. 

8. What’s one piece of advice that has sustained you as an artist? 

Suspend the kind of critical thinking that stops you, find it, become conscious of it, be compassionate with yourself. Notice when the hierarchy and the patriarchy gets in the way of the creative process, or seemingly drives it, and refuse to be ruled by it. Believing in scarcity is internalized oppression. 

9. Any other projects you want to lift up?

I am very fond of the Facebook group Creativity as a Healing Force in the World https://www.facebook.com/groups/artshealingnetwork/ and Moving Traditions.

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