Carol Hamoy: PsalmSong

September 15, 2005-January 20, 2006

Reception, Thursday, September 29, 2005, 5:00-8:00 pm

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum
One West 4th Street (between Broadway and Mercer Street), Manhattan

Carol Hamoy: PsalmSong, is a fine art installation inspired by three elements: the ten Psalms deemed by Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav to promote healing, Kabbalah's mystical illumination of the connections between the divine and human worlds, and herbal healing traditions from diverse ethnic and cultural heritages. The diaphanous environment provides a sanctuary for reflection and meditation. PsalmSong encourages the visitor to quietly search within themselves for a restful place for renewal and wellbeing - one in which spiritual, physical, and emotional healing can take place.

The five-sided meditation chamber is composed of 15 pale scrim panels, woven of gossamer and embroidered textiles salvaged from loved ones. The choice of five sides is based on the Kabbalistic belief in numerology, in which the number five is attributed with the symbolic power of warding off evil. Varying numbers of vertical bands in each of the textile panels convey the Kabbalistic suggestions of positive energy warding off negative possibilities. The thirteen horizontal bands allude to the partriarch Jacob's thirteen children.

Ten of the panels are inscribed with the texts of the ten Psalms, whose biblical texts have been gently edited by the artist to be gender-neutral: #16 (asking for protection), # 32 (pleading for deliverance), # 41 (praying for healing), # 42 (expressing hope in the divine), # 59 (seeking rescue), #77 (asking for strength), #90 (searching for wisdom), #105 (remembering God's miracles), #137 (acknowledging despair), and #150 (expressing jubilation). Recordings of these psalms, both sung and recited, provide an aural dimension to the environment.

 

 

Ten chairs (the symbolic number required for a quorum for Jewish prayer) are veiled in muslin, lending them an ethereal presence, and are situated in an outward-facing circle within the chamber. Each chair has a hand-embroidered back, associating that seat with the healers of diverse heritages: Curanderas, Healer, Herbalist, Mansin, Midwife, Nurse, Physician, Shaman, Sofadoras, and Yerbera. Adjacent to the meditation chamber are a grid of panels with twenty-two (the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet) hand-embroidered names of herbs used for medicinal purposes. These herbs, gleaned from diverse ethnic and cultural heritages, range from aloe to wheatgrass and have been the basis for ointments, nutrients, and tonics throughout the centuries.

"The power of Hamoy's work lies in the universality of the issues addressed and her making visible the connection between the singular experience and social context across cultural and generational boundaries," notes Laura Kruger, Curator. "She presents Jewish spiritual and mystical traditions from the perspective of a feminist lens."

"PsalmSong inhabits a realm that re-interprets the importance of art," explains Hamoy. "It is a work rooted in a deep spirituality with qualities intended to renew a sense of well being."

"Carol Hamoy's PsalmSong resonated with emerging trends in spirituality, which increasingly acknowledges the relationship between religion and health," says Jean Bloch Rosensaft, HUC-JIR Museum Director. "Hamoy's work reflects the contemporary interest in mysticism, the development of new ritual, and the search for renewal by accessing the wisdom of ancient traditions that had much to say about illness and wellness."

 

PsalmSong is an artistic expression of the Jewish healing movement that began in the 1990s, a movement spearheaded by professionals and lay leaders who came to realize that, as a consequence of modern life, many Jews no longer had easy or meaningful access to the spiritual and communal supports that had sustained previous generation through difficult times of illness and loss.

"Jewish healing has sought to integrate text (Torah) and context (sanctuary)," explain Michelle Prince, of the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health, and Susan Rosenthal, of the National Center for Jewish Healing. "Sanctuary implies a deep spirituality that is both intimate and communal. PsalmSong's ethereal yet comforting cloak demonstrates how Jewish healing seeks to reclaim spiritual environment."

Carol Hamoy's installation is presented in the context of recent environmental works created as healing spaces by contemporary artists, including sculptor Tobi Kahn's meditation room commissioned by The Healthcare Chaplaincy in New York.

PsalmSong is presented in cooperation with HUC-JIR's Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health and the National Center for Jewish Healing.

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalog, featuring an essay by E.M. Broner, author of A Weave of Women, The Women's Haggadah, Bringing Home the Light, and The Telling.

Catalog and images available: please contact Rachel Litcofsky, 212-824-2205; rlitcofsky@huc.edu

Museum Hours: Mondays-Thursdays, 9 am-5 pm; Fridays, 9 am-3 pm; Selected Sundays, 10 am-2 pm, Sept. 11, 25; Oct. 16; Nov. 13; Dec. 11.

Information/Tours: (212) 824-2205 www.huc.edu/museum/ny

Admission: Free, Photo ID Required