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Healing Power of Images : Emotions ranging from grief to joy inspire a series of 19 abstract but graceful compositions by Edna Miron-Wapner.

August 06, 1993|NANCY KAPITANOFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Nancy Kapitanoff writes regularly about art for The Times. and

Israeli artist Edna Miron-Wapner's "Images," on view at the University of Judaism's Platt Gallery, were her "surrender to the healing power of the creative process," she said.

She began the series of 19 works in January, 1991, in Los Angeles while staying with relatives. She had just come from Canada, and a death in the family. Soon after, the Gulf War began.

"My father had just died, and I was watching the war on TV. I had a lot of strong emotions. I needed so badly to express everything that was going on," she said. "I painted most of this work here in L. A., in a garden."

Standing in front of "Tzadi II," she recalled the indignation that inspired this piece when "they were bombing my country," she said.

However, a 1993 work, "Tikkun Olam II," is her call to repair the world. "The work is very primal, as if you dig down deep inside you and pour it out."

Arising from earlier sumi paintings of Hebrew letters--which embraced her passions for calligraphy, Jewish mysticism and Japanese Zen art--these abstract "Images" in sumi ink on paper speak boldly of many emotions--grief, pain, anger, frustration, joy, love.

They embody a vital grace through their powerful yet delicate compositions and brush strokes.

"Inspired by Eastern concepts of harmony, of active relationships between positive and negative space, as much as by the words of ancient Hebrew poets and mystics, she unconsciously began to relate to the classic Hebrew letter forms as departure points, rather than as the end of the road," wrote Barbara Gingold in the exhibit catalogue essay.

The artistic process that led to "Images" began more than 20 years ago.

Born in Tel Aviv in 1948, Miron-Wapner grew up in Montreal.

In the early '70s, she studied the batik technique of hand-dyeing fabrics. "There is a certain randomness in the batik process that you can't control. That's exciting to me."

She chose to move to Jerusalem in the late '70s.

"I knew I belonged there. I didn't know anybody, but I felt at home," she said.

Exposed to just a minimal amount of Hebrew in her home while growing up, she became fluent in the language within six months of her move. A fascination with Hebrew letter forms led her to learn calligraphy. She picked it up quickly and began combining calligraphy with batik designs on paper.

From these efforts, she developed an interest in making paper that was enhanced by a six-month trip to the Far East, where she attended papermaking workshops.

Upon her return to Israel, she studied papermaking with Joyce Meyer Schmidt.

After that, she lived in Los Angeles from 1985 to 1990. She continued to study with Harriet Germain, then with Yoshio Ikezawa, who also introduced her to sumi painting techniques.

"After I did sumi landscapes for a while, he started to show me the current thing (1988-89) in Japan, which was abstract Japanese calligraphy," Miron-Wapner said. "He said to me, 'You should do this with your Hebrew.' The first ones I did were really simple letters, simple brush strokes. The new shapes were so fresh and different for him."

Miron-Wapner's original show of "Images" last year at the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley presented only 18 works. The additional work in this show, "Hallelujah," was done this year. It is "a piece of celebration," she said. "In the powerful brush strokes and the energy of the inks, my pain would subside. I experienced the nurturing force of my art, which touched my mind, body and soul."

Through this process of healing herself, Miron-Wapner found that her work "was touching other people in the way they needed to be touched," she said.

Rather than confine viewers to the specific meanings she derives from her work, she invites them to "experience, understand and feel touched" by "Images" in their own way.

Where and When What: "Images: Art as Tikkun--Healing and Transformation." Location: Platt Gallery, University of Judaism, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel-Air. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays. Through Aug. 28. Call: (310) 476-9777, Ext. 276.

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