Welcome to my blog, where I will be sharing my personal journey as an artist and creator. It is my deepest desire to offer insight, inspiration, or a swift nudge that will inspire you to live your souls creative calling.
This first post shares the story of my personal awakening and how one pivotal moment can radically change the trajectory of a life.
My awakening sparked a series of events that led me and my art to Israel seven times in three years.
I remember the scene vividly. I was in Charleston, South Carolina celebrating my anniversary. Happy, hungry, and needing to pee, I went looking for a public restroom in a parking lot near the harbor. The sky was blue, the day was warm, and the lot was filled with trees, dancing shadows, and silver compact cars.
Just then my phone rang and my doctor’s phone number showed up on my screen. It was odd for a Saturday, and I felt everything shift inside. “I need to see you right away,” she said. “Can you come into my office first thing Monday morning?” I felt instantly afraid. “I think you may have Autoimmune Hepatitis and we need to schedule a liver biopsy as soon as possible.”
I hung up the phone, my mind racing. What had just happened? I don’t remember much else about the day, where we ate, or how we got home. I spent the rest of the day googling Autoimmune Hepatitis. What I found wasn’t very encouraging about what this disease would mean for my life. A lifetime of steroids, a possible liver transplant, and a five year mortality were all suddenly on the table.
The following Monday I saw my doctor and scheduled the biopsy. That same night, the dinner conversation went like this: “If this is true, and I only have five years to live, I need to sculpt.”
I relinquished 80% of my time in our business, pulled out my sculpture tools from college, and began playing with the alabaster blocks I had bought, inspired by a recent trip to Italy to celebrate my fiftieth birthday. Thankfully, 500 pounds of alabaster were already stored in my garage waiting for me.
I did my first stone sculpture in a college art class when I was eighteen. It was an introductory class that taught a bit of everything: sketching, printmaking, painting, life drawing, and sculpture. I remember to this day picking out a piece of raw pink alabaster and hearing my teacher’s instructions to “think about light and shadow.” I stayed up all night working on that first piece and fell in love with the challenge of creating three dimensional art by removing material. I made two stone sculptures in that class. I sold one of them. I still have the other.
Being poor and moving eight times in my twenties, I found that stone sculpture was not affordable or practical. By my thirties, I had gotten married, had a baby, become a business owner, begun traveling — and time kept passing. Throughout that time I still did art for myself. I would often walk by that first sculpture, a sleeping snake with a woman’s face, pat her on the head, and say, “One day I will wake you up — I promise.”
Thirty-five years had passed between my college class and that phone call in the harbor parking lot. I was in my mid-fifties, my daughter grown and on her own, my husband and I partners in a thriving business, happy and satisfied with my life, and getting physically sicker by the day. My body couldn’t keep up with the pace and my soul wanted to create. I didn’t know how to shift my direction—until that phone call.
While I waited out the weeks for my procedure, I found my chisels from almost forty years prior, took a local stone sculpting class, began sculpting where I had left off, and just kept going. I had no agenda about how much to create, or a plan to show anyone my work until I was sure of myself, but it was as if everything had simply been waiting for me to show up again. Once I began, the momentum kept me going. I started referring to myself as an artist, a sculptor with a love of stone.
And thankfully, the test results all came back fine.
Along with my longing to sculpt, this time period in my life also reawakened my love of and desire to return to Israel. This seed was planted in my heart in 1979 when at sixteen years old I attended a program at Alexander Muss High School in Israel. My class was small and we met on the tiny campus at Beit Berl in Kfar Saba. This place and experience changed me forever, and I fell madly in love with Israel.
I believed at that time that I would return to Israel within a year of going home, but, as with sculpting, I didn’t, and forty years passed. My love of sculpture and my love of Israel stayed in the back of my heart while I raised my daughter and ran my business.
So in the spring of 2017, while reinventing myself, I returned to Israel on my own with no specific plan and began wandering the country, trying to find my lost love again. It was immediate. My first days in Tel Aviv felt alive, and my time in Jerusalem brought back a flood of deep memories. I learned to navigate the buses, the taxis, and WhatsApp, and it seemed like everyone I met became a friend.
On my first visit back to Jerusalem, I met a family friend, Sam Philip, who is an accomplished Israeli sculptor. He saw my work and said, “This is really good. How would you like to show in Jerusalem?” That moment began my amazing journey back to myself, my art, and my soul’s home: Israel.
Since that day, I have been back to Israel seven times, transforming many of my stone designs into larger bronze sculptures. My work has been shown at the Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem (2019), in an exhibition in Maale Adumim, and in a group exhibition at Raanana Park (January 2020). I am honored that one of these designs, “Eternal Flame,” was included in a garden installation in Jerusalem in May of 2020 to honor Holocaust survivors.
The next project in the works is called “Healing Heart.” It will be a six foot sculpture, inspired by my previous work “Heart of the Matter,” and will be placed in Bet Shean at the entrance of Magen David Adom. Designed with love in mind, it will honor Israel’s first responders—the work they do and the lives they save. My hope is always that my work gives a feeling of energy, passion, and healing to anyone who engages with it.
My art career and love of Israel continue to grow and thrive, and I look forward to the day I return, when I get to stand on her holy ground and reconnect with my dearest friends once again.
Looking forward to hearing how this story inspires your creative calling.
This blog is an edited version of an article written for the the September 2020 issue of ESRAmagazine.