Monday, 28 February 2022

'Aleph' is for Ayelet

It's been quite a while since I posted one of my Hebrew letter papercuts and this one is a tiny one! My good friend Ayelet was celebrating her 50th birthday. A group of us got together to mark the day and, rather than buying a group gift, our brief was to give Ayelet something that could fit into a matchbox! I decided that I wanted to make Ayelet a papercut, so that's what she got inside her matchbox, along with some sweet photos of our children together from over the years.
The Hebrew name Ayelet means deer or gazelle. It starts with the letter Aleph, pronounced ah-lef, and is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It is written as א and spelled as אלף. This letter is actually the source of the Greek letter Alpha, as you can see by the similarities in the two letters' names, and the English letter "A" is therefore ultimately derived from Aleph as well.
In Modern Israeli Hebrew, the letter is sometimes silent (word-finally always, word-medially sometimes: הוא‎ "he", ראשי‎ "main", ראש‎ "head", ראשון‎ "first"). Its pronunciation varies in different Jewish communities.
The root of the word Aleph is also connected to many other words in the Hebrew language. The world "eleph," for example, means a thousand. The word "aluf," which also comes from the same root, means a (military) "general," or a "champion". The letter Aleph has connotations of greatness!
Since the letter Aleph is the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet, it therefore symbolises oneness and unity. In Judaism it is often associated with the oneness of monotheism. Every letter in the Hebrew alphabet also has a numerical value, or gematria, so naturally the numerical value assigned to Aleph is one. You may see this most commonly when the Hebrew year is written out. For example, last year, 2021, the Hebrew year was 5781 - תשפ"א. The Aleph in it represents the one. When an Aleph is used at the beginning of Hebrew years, it means 1000.
The Bible begins with the second letter of the alphabet, bet. There is a midrash (an ancient rabbinic interpretation of scripture) that says the letter Aleph is rewarded by being allowed to start the Ten Commandments. (In Hebrew, the first word is אנכי, which starts with an Aleph.) Aleph is also the first letter of the Hebrew word emet (אמת), which means truth. In Jewish mythology, it was the letter aleph that was carved into the head of the golem that ultimately gave it life. (In Jewish folklore the golem was a creature created by magic, often to serve its creator.) 
Ayelet also received one of my papercut cards on her birthday. I cut out her name in Hebrew letters and added the 50 to mark her age. As I have already mentioned, the name Ayelet means deer or gazelle. The name was taken from the phrase אילת השחר (ayelet hashachar), literally "gazelle of dawn", which is a name of the morning star. The phrase ayelet hashachar is found in the Bible at Tehillim 22:1. The entire verse reads: "la-menatzeaḥ al ayelet ha-shaḥar mizmor le-David."
Other related Hebrew name choices with the same meaning are Aya and Ayala. The masculine form of the name is Ayal.
* I have previously posted about the Hebrew letters Hey, Lamed, Mem, Nun and Resh. You can click on the name to read about each letter.

Thursday, 24 February 2022

A Favourite Photo of Safta and Saba

This particular safta and saba (the Hebrew names for grandmother and grandfather) have been receiving my handmade cards for years. It's become a tradition. In the past I have shown Safta making her wonderful chicken soup and more recently, playing Solitaire on her iPad. Saba's most recent birthday card showed the two of them tucking into their daily grapefruit.
This year their daughter-in-law sent me a favourite photo of the couple and asked if I could recreate it for Safta's birthday card. It was actually a really great photo for this type of project. Safta and Saba's clothes were beautifully coordinated and I was able to create the card using a colour palette of pinks and greys.
I hope Safta liked her card.

Monday, 21 February 2022

Hair and Makeup

I have been making birthday cards for Eden for a number of years and makeup has been the theme for many of them. This year was no different. Eden's mum asked me to make her daughter a card based on things to do with the makeup and hair course she is currently taking.
Eden's mum told me that she has been working on a dolls head for hair styling. (Who remembers the Girl's World styling head of the 1970s?). She sent me various photos of the doll, which has been named Patricia! Apparently Eden was most pleased with the wavy hairstyle she had created in one photo, so I tried to replicate it on her card.
Eden is learning about makeup as well as hair, though I think she is already super talented in that department. Check out her Instagram page to see some of her amazing creations. I added some bits of makeup - a couple of teeny tiny palettes, lipsticks and a brush - along with a picture of Eden doing Patricia's hair.
Eden loved the card.
* This post has been shared on The Good. The Random. The Fun.
Sticky Mud and Belly Laughs

Thursday, 17 February 2022

Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective

Yayoi Kusama is widely known as the "Queen of Polka Dots." Born in 1929, she is considered to be one of the most important living artists to come out of Japan. I was recently lucky enough to enjoy a retrospective exhibition of her work at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. "Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective" is the first major exhibition to showcase the works of Kusama in Israel, bringing together artworks produced over an eighty year period. More than 200 of her artworks, including sculpture, paintings and installations, are displayed in chronological order, tracing her footsteps from childhood to her career in New York and later in Japan.
Phalli’s Field, 1965.
Women of Shangri-La, 2002.

Kusama grew up in Matsumoto, Japan and trained at the Kyoto City University of Arts in a traditional Japanese painting style called nihonga. She subsequently trained in the yōga style - a form of Japanese painting in a Western style, associated with the rapid modernisation of Japan. She was inspired, however, by American Abstract expressionism and moved to New York in 1958, at the encouragement of the American painter Georgia O’Keeffe. There she became part of the New York avant-garde scene throughout the 1960s, especially in the pop-art movement. She came to public attention when she organised a series of happenings in which naked participants were painted with brightly coloured polka dots. Since the 1970s, Kusama has continued to create art. As she matured and developed, her artworks grew in size and later became the installations and mirrored infinity rooms for which she became famous.
Love Forever, 1966/94.
The exhibition in Tel Aviv begins with two of Kusama's crayon drawings from when she was five and nine years old and already utilising dots in her artworks. It continues through her massive canvases, sculpted works and mirrored infinity rooms, which can only be entered by a few people at a time.
The first infinity room was part of Kusama's phallus phase, a mirrored room filled with soft white protrusions covered with red polka dots. The next infinity room, above, allows viewers to peer through square windows into a revolving kaleidoscope of mirrors and neon lights, something akin to being inside a pinball machine.
The following gallery introduces viewers to Kusama's black polka-dotted yellow painted pumpkins, above, an object that Kusama has viewed as her alter ego and that formed the core of her work after she returned to Japan in 1973. Besides the grand gold pumpkin in the centre of the gallery is her pumpkin infinity room, below, where yellow painted pumpkins are extended by mirrors into an alternative, polka-dotted pumpkin patch.
The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended into the Heavens, 2015.
The exhibition finishes with two installations created for this Israeli retrospective, "A Bouquet of Love I Saw in the Universe" and "The Eternally Infinite Light of the Universe Illuminating the Quest for Truth", a mirror-lined infinity room with LED lights that slowly change colour, reflected in dozens of mirrored balls set on the floor of the room.
Strolling between the large black polka-dotted pink inflatable tentacles of "A Bouquet of Love I Saw in the Universe" felt rather like being in a large-scale amusement park designed just for adults! People were taking selfies and filming videos amongst the endless patterns of dots. Unsurprisingly Kusama is the most tagged artist on social media, with Katy Perry, Adele and Nicole Richie all seeking out one of her famous mirrored infinity rooms for a selfie. 
A Bouquet of Love I Saw in the Universe, 2021.
Kusama tells the story of how when she was a little girl she had a hallucination that freaked her out. She was in a field of flowers when they all started talking to her. The heads of flowers were like dots that went on as far as she could see, and she felt as if she was disappearing into this field of endless dots. This weird experience influenced most of her later works. By adding marks and dots to her paintings, drawings, objects and clothes, she feels as if she is making them (and herself) melt into, and become part of, the bigger universe.
Narcissus Garden, 1966.
Ranked as one of the best and biggest art exhibitions of 2021, "Yayoi Kusama: A Retrospective" is still drawing big crowds. It is set to run till April 23rd 2022. Book now!
The Eternally Infinite Light of the Universe Illuminating the Quest for Truth, 2021.