Saturday, May 28, 2016

Ciphering the Sacred

Or Zaruah garden threshold illumination

We live in a world that ceaselessly seeks to decipher - to take things apart to uncover the secret of their existence; to break the code.

As an artist, I feel drawn into mirror world, the realm of ciphering - to participate in the act of creating a space that holds the secret. 

Aleph ciphered medallion*

When I think of "cipher" my mind immediately goes to the Hebrew root SAMEcH PEI RESH - the root for words like number, counting and recounting (mispar); telling a story (misapair), book (sefer), library (sifria);  the one who writes sacred texts (sofer), sapphire (sapir) and the Spheres of Emanation (s'firot).

Adrinka ciphered medallion*

The English word "cipher" sounds suspiciously related to words like sphere and sapphire.  It does indeed come to us from the Semitic root, though not directly from Hebrew but from the Arabic of Al-Andalus - the Golden Age of Spain where words like "sifr" and "shayfara" created a whole new concept in mathematics that sparked a revolution of thinking, that of the space holder, the concept of zero. As one philosopher put it: 

"Zero does not mean "nothing". Zero is on a border between things identified and not identified. Once the identification is set in, or something is appointed it's name or meaning or characteristic, then one appears."

This mystical mathematical addition gives rise to irrational numbers, with which I identify wholeheartedly!  

To participate in the act of ciphering is to reside in the experience of number, story and the sacred space that borders the real and imaginary worlds where intention has an opportunity to lean a wish into a manifestation.  

Mem ciphered medallion*

*For more information on the ciphered medallions shown here as well as others available you can go to the following Facebook link;  Ciphered Medallions  .  The link to place an order is: Paypal link. You can also just send me an email at

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Lute Rose Windows

Toward a Higher Fidelity Series: Umanut,  -  closeup

What is a "lute rose"?  It is the opening that is cut into a lute to create a soundbox.  The lute as musical instrument derives from the oud, an ancient instrument of the Arabic origin carried to Al-Andulus, that is to say Spain, during its Golden Age. Al-Oud العود becomes La Oud which settles into "lute" in the Renaissance vernacular.  The lute rose (or oud shams - shams meaning "sun") maintains its characteristic arabesque form.  In my own work I have found the lute rose form to have a beauty and movement that goes beyond the compass and straight rule into a fluidity which lends a kind of roundness and femininity to an angular world. 

Kaddish  detail

According to Friedemann Helwig, who seriously researched the symbolic geometric language of lute roses,  the lute rose as pierces through the visible into the invisible worlds.  The 6-fold forms which predominate among lute rose patterns symbolizes the intrinsic harmony of the universe.

Lute Rose window from The Cosmic Dervish copperwork illumination

For me these forms have become windows peering into the numinous, co-present nature of reality, as expressed in the Song of Songs 2:9 

Here it stands behind our wall, winking through the windows, twinkling through the openings.

Flight for Life - A love song      Lute Rose detail.

I draw from the broad resource of Islamic geometries to find an appropriate lute rose window for an illumination.  Any form that functions as a window through the worlds can qualify.  The beauty of these geometries is that any form is only a snapshot of an infinitely extending reality, a harmonic moment captured within the boundless celestial symphony.

Dynamic Intervention

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Process of coming to light

Shams Enlightened  17.5 H x 33.3 W 

This is my most recent illumination. Its title is Shams Enlightened.

I have taken a few photographs at various stages of the process in order to provide a glimpse into what goes into the creation of a copperwork illumination.

Above you see a piece of copper sheet that I have cut approximately into form with an open throat shear.  The pattern has already been transferred onto the copper and the pattern scribed in using a sharp stylus. Asphaltum (liquid asphalt) has been applied to the areas that are to remain high - that is, not to be eaten down by the acid (I use ferric perchloride to do the deed).

Here the copper has been through the acid etching bath (around 4 hours) as well as the solvent bath to soften and remove the asphaltum (between 5-7 days).  I have also begun some polishing and even begun adding some blue to the tree to make the flowing geometries and calligraphy stand out.  You can also see a portion of the original pattern that I transferred on the far right towards the top. That pen looking object to the right of the copperwork is the stylus used to both scratch the pattern into the copper and to bring up thinner areas of the design, especially lettering, during polishing. For thicker areas, such as the petals, I use a fiberglass pen for polishing.

Here's a closer look to see the petals and internal sunflower geometry coming alive through polishing and the sepal natural patina amplified with a coating of shellac. There is also the polishing and outlining of the lettering.  You can see the right side of the image is still in its original condition from the acid and solvent baths.

In this image you can see the right side tree brought up with polishing and the amplifying effects of engraving over the lettering with a wriggler (with the black handle) seen in the picture.

Here the internal sunflower cutwork was accomplished with a scroll saw at its lowest speed setting with a very fine metal blade  and filed with needle files; the cutwork around the top perimeter of the trees was accomplished with a jeweler's saw.(If you check out the banner on my Facebook page you will see examples of those tools used in other illuminations, Here you can also see the outlines of the sepals have been engraved to give them more definition and coloring has been added to the tree form on the right.  Framing is all that is left to do.  From inception to completion Shams Enflowered took ~ 3 months to come to light.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Who's that in the mirror?

Singularity mirror detail

The final illumination associated with the series "Toward a Higher Fidelity" is called Singularity. Singularity reflects the development of the self, the human soul, as it takes on the responsibility of inherent holiness and moves closer to the Source of Being.  In the Hebraic Mystical tradition this quality of soul development is called YEcHIDA or Singularity.  

The central geometric illuminated cutwork is twelve-fold or twelve around one, "one" being the flame. In three dimensional space this geometry become a dodecahedron.  The dodecahedron has twelve faces formed from pentagons, so it also has a 5 nature. This is significant to me since YEcHIDA is the 5th level of soul development. I also sensed a musical aspect to this form suggestive of the circle of 5ths. My son Noah studied at the School of Music in Eugene, Oregon.  He had told me that sometimes the students would stand around and each take one of the twelve tones (comprising the black and white keys on a piano within an octave). I found myself rather reeling from the numeric diversity of this assignment - 12, 5 and 1 (as in Singularity) and asked him what it would mean were he to commit to an ascending note of the twelve tones.  He said it would depend entirely upon the resonance (not tempered as it is on a piano) of the tone of the person standing next to him - in other words, it was a matter of relationship and resonance.

Singularity, then, is a self-portrait of anyone who looks deeply into themselves and commits to the unfoldment of their intrinsic divinity expressed in relationship to those around them.  

Who's that in the mirror?  
It is you and the faceted jewel that you are. 
Be beautiful. 
Be holy.

After completing this work, I was directed by a friend to a canto from the epic poem Savitri by Sri Aurobindo: Canto III Book 1 of The Yoga of the Soul's Release.

All here must learn to obey a higher law.
Our body's cells must hold the Immortal's flame
Else would the spirit reach alone its source
Leaving a half-saved world to its dubious fate.
Nature would ever labour unredeemed;
Our Earth would ever spin unhelped in Space
and this immense creation's purpose fail
Till at last the frustrate universe sank undone.