Art Of The Place


Art beyond contemplation, more than seeing, feeling, a farther step into the proximity of spirit. What happens when we sit in the company of art in such a way that causes cooperation and community with, and in, spirit? Stepping into the arms of such an environment not only removes us from the strata of daily occupations and pre-occupations, but also places us on the rungs of Jacob’s Ladder. Surrounded by art the of place, we sit near to our true home in God’s heart.

This ‘art of the place’ is exemplified in the work of artist Tobi Kahn, who believes that “to create art is natural, an act in the image of the Creator, whose materials are light and darkness, generative and reflecting luminosities, and their attendant color and shadow. Art begins in the capacity to see, a mode of knowing the world and its Maker that is indispensable to the religious and cultural expression of a people.”

He goes on to ask “how can God be made manifest in the material world? The infinite and mortal can meet in spaces designated as liminal, dwelling places that invite our spirit, made in the Image, to encounter the ineffable God in both splendor and intimacy. The media for the engagement between transcendence and immanence are the same as those with which the world itself was created: Light, horizon, breath, pattern, the holiness of distinctions.”


About abstraction, used with breathtaking effect in a Milwaukee Synagogue, Tobi writes that “it is an invitation to discover the grandeur of the world we were given, to contemplate the beginning, its first shapes and forms, to taste a return to the paradise of creation in a world that only our deeds can redeem. These works suggest the continual flowering of life radiance and darkening, elemental particles of being, earthbound and celestial vantage points.”

You can see more of Tobi Kahn’s art here. Tobi Kahn quotations are from his The Meaning of Beauty contained in whole in “Tobi Kahn: Sacred Spaces for the 21st Century” (©2009, Tobi Kahn) available here.

The Museum of Biblical Art, MOBIA recently featured the exhibition Tobi Kahn Sacred Spaces for the 21st Century. “Since his art feels equally at home in the liturgy, in the public forum, and in museums, it has special significance for individuals and institutions – like MOBIA – who seek to understand the relationship between art, religion, and ritual” (from the MOBIA segment from the CBS program “The Art of the Book,” which can be seen here).

Seen above (main): Shalom Bat chairs, new ritual objects created by Tobi Kahn for the ceremony of welcoming a baby girl into the Jewish family and naming her. The four chairs are symbolic of the four Matriarchs of the Hebrew Bible: Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca, and Leah. They will be installed in The Abraham Joshua Heschel School, and made available to the community there for welcoming and naming celebrations.

Seen above (inset): areta (variation).

On view in the homepage masthead: Congregation Emanu-El B’n, Milwaukee, Wisconsin installation, see more here.

On view at Daily Episcopalian masthead: aahpa study (detail) by Tobi Kahn. On view at Speaking to the Soul masthead: ahyan study (detail) by Tobi Kahn. The titles of the art used in these mastheads caused me to ask Tobi about their meanings. He replied “they are made up names based on language, alluding to actual Hebrew or Latin words, but are not meant to be literal. As my work is abstract based on reality, I felt the titles should reflect that as well. There is a spiritual content to the names.”

Past Posts