Presentation at Sky Art '83, Exhibition and Conference, BMW Museum, Munich


Higher Than Sky: Spiritual Dimensions of Contemporary Art

Mel Alexenberg

A group of Hassidim love to tell of their great Rebbe who ascends to heaven in the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.  A skeptic arrives in town and listens incredulously. "How can you think such ridiculous nonsense?  According to tradition, even Moses fell short of reaching heaven," he chides them.  One morning, he follows the Rebbe as he disappears from the synagogue.  He spies him donning work clothes and entering a shack at the edge of the village.  Peering through a window, he sees an old, frail woman in bed.  The Rebbe is chopping wood for her stove, scrubbing the floor and cleaning her home for the coming holiday.  Later, when the Hassidim tell of tell of their Rebbe ascending to heaven, the skeptic among them add IF NOT HIGHER   

From the encounter at Mount Sinai 4,000 years ago to this day, Jews make fringes flow out of the corners of their garments.  These fringes should have a sky blue strand spiraling around them (Numbers 15:37-41).  The blue strand links the sky and earth to remind us that simple acts of human kindness are the highest expression of the human spirit

Jews are often called "People of the Book."  But a Hebrew book is not a book at all.  It is a scroll.  The Hebrew word for both book and scroll is written with the letters S-P-R.  The SpiRal Torah scroll has preserved a living SPiRitual message for humanity, just as the information for all of life's forms is encoded in the spiraling DNA double helix.  The electronic revolution is returning information storage to computer discs, videotapes, and the like.  The spiral opens and integrates the rectilinear forms of the West and the cyclical forms of the East.  It inspires the artist to an on-going quest towards creating open-ended forms of art that evokes questions rather than forms that hang enclosed within golden frames of certainty.  It asks the artist to imitate the Creator rather than His creation.  It invites a sky art that draws the Infinite-Eternal in the midst of our daily lives

Once each year, Jewish families build a hut, a sukkah, leaving the comfort of their homes for a week to commemorate their sojourn in the desert escaping from Egyptian bondage.  The hut must have at least two and a half walls and a roof of branches spaced so that the sky and stars can be seen

All humanity is invited to join the Jewish people in celebrating the festival of Sukkot by living in huts (Zechariah 14:16-19) for one week.  When all people live in dwellings open to their neighbors and open to the sky, then we will be at peace with each other and with nature, thereby ushering in the Messianic era

My artwork at the Sky Art '83 exhibition, which falls during the week of Sukkot, we will be in a sukkah in desert sand opened to the sky with fringes flowing fro its corners tying sky to earth