Stripe Paintings

“Color is my day-long obsession, joy, and torment.  To such an extent indeed that one day, finding myself at the deathbed of a woman who had been and still was very dear to me, I caught myself in the act of focusing on her temples and automatically analyzing the succession of appropriately graded colors which death was imposing on her motionless face.” – Claude Monet

“Life is about using the whole box of crayons.” – RuPaul

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 house arrest, I started a new series of paintings – colored stripes, one touching the other.  The vision is to create an analogous composition and continually remember that the way I see one color is seldom as it is but in-relation to the adjacent color.  There are infinite variations, many types of colors, and brushes; in other words – the exploration is endless.

There are many ways to quiet down the mind at times of fear and high anxiety; some are destructive in the long run.  Of those that are not, I am always drawn into making art, working with my hands, and letting the mind be in the zone. 

When I reach the point of flow in the painting process, my mind is so concentrated on the brush’s tip that I am becoming one with it.  Sometimes, the paint’s viscosity is so soft, and even that it feels like butter and produces long uniform lines with one stroke.  Other times, the paint is thick like cement and must be laid dot by dot. 

Odem Forest, the Golan Heights, Israel

A dense forest always makes me think about being lost in the uncomfortableness of the unknown, which is more mental sensation than real. Yet, getting lost is not a waste of time because, as a wise man once said, “Not until we are lost do we begin to find ourselves.”

The Odem Forest, which comprises a variety of oak trees, is the remnant of a natural forest that once covered most of the Golan Heights. At the forest’s center is a volcanic cavity, 250 meters across and about 60 meters deep. It was created when volcanic gas from deep beneath the earth’s surface caused a powerful explosion.

Golden Temple #2

Most times, the painting process is easy. The painting is waiting to reveal itself, always an attractive mystery to explore. But sometimes, when something about it does not sit well with my “eye,” it’s a struggle. In most cases, it’s either the colors or the stripe’s composition. Painting the Golden Temple ,2 was such a case. Numerous times I wanted to put it aside and move to something fresh and new. I chose not to do it. The main issue was the gold color and its stripe’s thickness. I experimented with a variety of gold colors and painted them multiple times. In the end, I let it be.

Varanasi, India

In 1982 I visited the city of dying. In the Hindu tradition, it is the best place to depart this chapter of life and embark on a new one. In the never-ending cycle of reincarnation, when your body gets burned and its ashes are thrown into Varanasi’s Ganges River, you are spiritually free. I was young, strong, fearless, curious, and wounded but far from being spiritually awake. On our walks in the narrow and crowded streets, especially those close to the riverbank, we encountered many sick, bone-skinny, cancer-stricken, lepers, and older people waiting to die. Many of them wore loincloths carrying only a begging bowl and nothing else. There was no sense of fear in their eyes, no despair. What I saw was calm acceptance – the power of their faith. I, on the other hand, felt very uncomfortable; it was hard to keep a straight gaze at those people. I was filled with a sense of horror. In those days of vagabond travel, I took very few photos because each film’s exposure was precious and expensive, and I was cheap and thrifty. There is a heavy presence of darkness and shadows in the few photographs I took, which look very appropriate.

Joshua Tree #3

It’s so easy to take the other path when the days are short and cold, hunker down, and not venture out. In December, the park’s temperature is cold, the sky’s color is exceptional, which gives the visiting experience a sense of a particular intensity. The park is a heaven for photography.

The sky is stunning; I dare say, at times, even more than the moon-like imagery of the boulders. The rocks look as if they were piled up one on top of the other like in a child play, but in reality, they were carved by wind and water very patiently over millions of years. In my mind, the spiky trees conjure up the nude drawings of Egon Schiele, the Austrian painter, or maybe, Danna would say, a page from a Dr. Seuss book.

Joshua Tree #2

Unusual plants grow in this park; they are called Joshua Trees. This National Park is in a desert land, sculpted by strong winds and occasional torrents of rain. Whenever I visit this place, which is only a 2-3 hours’ drive from Los Angeles, I think of the depth these desert trees’ roots must go into the ground to draw out some water. And how the silence between the rocks and the sky deepens my own roots into the wellspring of life. Joshua tree forests tell a story of survival, resilience, and beauty borne through perseverance.

Golden Temple #1

The Golden Temple is a serene, graceful, humbling, and meditative sight. We spent half a day sitting and observing the shiny gold structure and the colorful crowd of pilgrims from different angles. The complex around the temple is large, covered with white, polished clean marble that feels inviting for the many barefoot visitors.

A few interesting facts about the shrine:

  1. The Golden Temple is covered with gold plates; 500 kg of pure 24-karat of gold valued at $22 billion.
  2. Sikh believes that the pond surrounding the temple has medicinal properties. It is called “Pool of the Nectar of Immortality.” Many devotees take a bath before walking into the temple.
  3. Sikhism opposes the Hindu practice of caste. The four entrances on each side of the temple symbolize a welcome greeting to whoever comes in. All are accepted regardless of gender, caste, or religion. There is only one God, and all human beings can have direct access to God with no need for rituals or priests.
  4. The Amritsar Golden Temple is the largest free kitchen in the world. It serves more than fifty thousand meals daily.

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is a place that no picture can ever fully capture its size. Even while you’re standing at the top staring down, you can’t discern how far away the bottom is. You can view the canyon from the south or north rims; both are breathtaking. The north rim’s elevation is 1000 ft (300 m) higher, but the south rim is the more popular side. When viewing the canyon from the south, the sun will be at your back, making it favorable for photography. Four trails lead down to the river from the south rim and one from the north rim. You can choose how far down to go before making the turn; no permits are required. However, if you wish to go all the way down and camp overnight before proceeding back, a permit is required. You can reserve it at the National Parks website.

Venturing down into the canyon to gaze up at the massive rock walls or feel the crisp Colorado River is not a simple endeavor. Still, anyone in decent physical condition can experience at least a few miles of the spectacular trails. If you have the full trip on your bucket list or just feel up to the challenge, I suggest going down on the South Kaibab Trail, staying at Phantom Ranch for a couple of nights, and climbing back up on the Bright Angel Trail.

Maroon Hypnosis

Hypnosis is a trance-like state of mind characterized by a heightened level of focus and deep relaxation. On the other end, the maroon color represents intensity, passion, power, risk, and strength.

The sight of these Buddhist banners inside a remote temple up in the Himalayan mountains in Ladakh was quite hypnosis.

A Pilgrimage to the Shore Temple in Mamallapuram, India

When I saw this group of women in 2015, I thought about the significance of a pilgrimage and a ritual. I imagine they came from a small, poor village, a few hours drive, wearing their most magnificent bright red and gold saris in honor of their pilgrimage to the Shore Temple in Mamallapuram, on the Bay of Bengal, India. It’s different from a tourist excursion; it’s a spiritual trip — a journey to a holy site in search of meaning, purpose, and truth.

Joseph Campbell said, “A ritual is the enactment of a myth. And, by participating in the ritual, you are participating in the myth. And since myth is a projection of the depth wisdom of the psyche, by participating in a ritual, participating in the myth, you are being, as it were, put in accord with that wisdom, which is the wisdom that is inherent within you anyhow. Your consciousness is being reminded of the wisdom of your own life.”

Joshua Tree #1

What is the origin of the name Joshua Tree?

The Joshua tree’s upraised branches impressed Mormon pioneers who crossed the Mojave Desert in the 1850s. The tree reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua, who led the Israelites into the Promised Land, reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer. The Mormons coined the tree’s name, and it stuck, unlike other less intriguing Joshua tree names: Cabbage Tree, Spanish Bayonet Tree, Yucca Palm, Yucca Tree, or Tree Lily.

Purple Hat

“Purple Hat” is a song by American duo Sofi Tukker. I listened to their daily Facebook Live every morning during the early months of COVID 19 home lockdown. Every morning, every single morning, I would go on a 10-mile bicycle ride down Ballona Creek to the Marina and then south, along the ocean to Lifeguard Station 56. The streets were pretty much empty of cars and pedestrians, but I felt alive and in the element with nature. I am deeply grateful for their music and heart.

Fairbanks, Alaska

Fairbanks is about a 200-mile drive from the Arctic Circle. I was excited to get that far up north, I thought it would be like some little old mining town in the middle of nowhere, but it’s not. Yes, Fairbank started as a gold-mining town in 1901 and still is, but the construction of the Alcan Road during WWII and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in 1973-77 made it a hub city for rural Alaskans. It is surprisingly warm here, 70F. Today, the sunset was at 12:47 am and promptly came up again two hours later. Those two hours of ‘darkness’ aren’t dark at all but a twilight. Fairbanks is an excellent spot to observe and experience the Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights). Web sites provide predictions on when the phenomena can be seen. I am sure it’s a euphoric, spiritual experience to watch mother nature’s artistic display, but that happens only in the winter.

The Dark-Hunter

There are many beautiful breathtaking places around the world. I have seen a few, and Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is somewhere at the top of the list. The size of Lebanon or two times Delaware, Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world. We visited in March 2019, just at the end of the rainy season, when a significant portion of the Salar was still covered with a thin layer of water, transforming the flats into a stunning reflection of the sky. It’s an incredible phenomenon, especially at sunset, which reminded me of the Rorschach psychological test. Natural beauty with psychological interpretations – quite a combo.

The Dark-Hunter is an ancient warrior who sold his soul to the Greek goddess Artemis for a single act of vengeance. Now they protect humankind from the demons who want to claim our souls.

Light Intuition

I once heard in a sermon that God’s voice is not as eloquent as his silence.

Walking with faith is sometimes like being in the midst of a sand storm. You think you walk to the right, but actually, you walk in circles. Sometimes, the best way is to lay low and wait till the view clears up. It’s the same thing with certain feelings; they pass and clear up. Being patient is not easy. It’s a muscle that needs constant training to maintain and strengthen. I found that it’s in the pause that I hear the whispering sound of grace.

When I lay low and wait, I can tell that the sand storm is not blowing from some far-away place, but it’s all in me. It is me. It is an invitation to dig deeper and explore the story behind the story. It’s an opportunity to expand, grow, and become a better man.

Gold Ladakh

There might be undiscovered gold minerals deep in the mountains of Ladakh, but there is no doubt for the existence of another type of gold in that Himalayan region – the spiritual one. In 2016 I was there with Danna and Tomer. I thought a lot about the Buddha’s last words: “Be a light to yourselves, seek no other, never give up.” And with the master’s last words: “Believe not because an old book is produced as an authority. Believe not because your father said [you should] believe the same. Believe not because other people like you believe it. Test everything, try everything, and then believe it, and if you find it for the good of many, give it to all.”

Olive Treehouse

Olive trees are rich with symbolism. It is a symbol of victory, healing, friendship, and peace. For me, olive trees conjure up something old, saturated with history and a sense of belonging to the land. Many olive trees are thousands of years old and yet continue to produce olives. East of Jerusalem’s old city is Mount Olives. Years ago, it was covered with olive groves. Today, the trees are few and far between. From Mount Olives, the views of Jerusalem are the best. There is a Jewish cemetery on the mountain that holds graves from biblical times. It’s also the site of a few churches, including the Church of All Nations. Unfortunately, olive trees’ mere existence and harvesting have become a symbol of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Jazzy

This painting was inspired by a sight I witnessed while motorcycling in Vietnam. It was in a town named Bac Ha, up in the northern part of the country, close to the border with China, where many ethnic hill tribes live far away from the modern world, much as they have always lived. On  Saturdays, the Bac Ha market is the place to be. All the nearby hill tribes bring handicrafts and freshly picked produce to sell in a flurry of color and tribal custom. I took many photos; at one point, I stopped looking for composition, and the images taken became a feast of colors.

Gray & Purple

Gray is always in the middle of the road type, cool, conserved, composed, and reliable. I often find myself wearing gray clothes accented with a touch of a more striking color. It feels safe as it’s neutral, non-emotional color. It controls and contains my energies.

Cottonwood Tree

In December 2000, we ventured out of the COVID’s house arrest to the Grand Canyon. We reached the bottom of the canyon, riding mules down and up, a four hours journey. At Phantom Ranch, we encountered a massive yellow shade tree—the Cottonwood tree’s bright green foliage changes to brilliant yellow in the fall. The beauty was breathtaking and memorable. Yellow is the color of sunshine, hope, cheerfulness, and lightness. 

Isla Del Sol, Bolivia

One of the most transcendent blue sceneries I have witnessed was on Isla Del Sol. It is a small island in the middle of Lake Titicaca, on the border between Bolivia and Peru, very high on the Andes Mountain range. It takes a couple of hours by boat from Copacabana to reach it. According to Inca mythology, this island is the birthplace of the sun. The island embodiment of peace and serenity is best explored at a strolling pace.

Tecopa Hot Springs #1

For many years I have visited Tecopa Hot Springs around December; I consider it a pilgrimage. I love the drive into the vast, open, colorful dessert. It’s the kind of journey that allows me to experience the depth of my inwardness and sense of self. The entire color spectrum is present in the desert’s color, yet it’s always mixed with some tan and gray shades.

Rosh Hashanah

I painted this during the Jewish New Year week, called in Hebrew Rosh Hashanah, in September 2021. For me, it’s a time of reflection and deep connection with my Higher Power. It’s time I think deeply about my purpose in life and my true promise. It’s time to pray for a good year.

Night

“The deeper the blue becomes, the more strongly it calls man towards the infinite, awakening in him a desire for the pure and, finally, for the supernatural … The brighter it becomes, the more it loses its sound until it turns into silent stillness and becomes white.” – Wassily Kandinsky

Red Indian Saree

Indians are not afraid of vivid colors; this is one of the striking things I experienced. Saree is a long piece of cloth draped around the body and over one shoulder, worn by Hindu women. It consists of an unstitched drape varying from 4.5 to 9 meters (15 to 30 feet) in length. The sarees with a color combination of golden – grey magenta with orange and mustard yellow are striking.

Chalalan Ecolodge, Bolivia

Deep in the heart of the Bolivian Amazon Rainforest, five hours by canoe from Rurrenabaque, up the Beni River, and then the Tuichi River, is Chalalan Ecolodge. Nestled within the Madidi National Park, on the Chalalan Lagoon banks, the people of San Jose Village built and operates a fully sustainable lodge powered by the sun. The Chalalan Ecolodge is a comfortable place to visit, with first-class food, guided hikes, and activities in the middle of the jungle. It is considered one of the most successful experiments in indigenous ecotourism in the world. The original painting is 81 by 11.5 inches (206 by 29 cm).

Merlot

In what used to be the Broadway Theater District at the heart of downtown Los Angeles is the Ace Theater. It was built in 1927 in the Spanish Gothic style, inspired by the Segovia Cathedral in Spain. It’s a gem, a beauty just like a good old wine. The color merlot is a deep purplish red, referring to its resemblance to the color of the wine’s variety of the same name. Merlot has a red color because it’s made with red-skinned grapes.