October 10th - November 28th 2019
Wolfson Museum of Jewish Art
The Jerusalem Biennale
Reception and Gallery Talk
Female Waters - Wall Text
The exhibition Female Waters showcases Chani Cohen Zada’s figurative works that are based on traditional oil painting techniques. The paintings tell the stories of biblical female figures through the interpretive lens of Midrashic and Kabbalistic writings. Revealing the mysteries that lie hidden in the unique feminine power of these heroines, the source of inspiration for the present exhibition is in Jewish mysticism’s conception of the physical and metaphysical as one reality wherein the masculine and feminine aspects are complementing each other.
In Kabbalah the two modes of the Divine service are called the “masculine waters” and the “feminine waters”. Whereas the masculine waters represent the flow of the Divine benevolence from above downward, the feminine ones represent the elevation from below seeking to ascend and be absorbed above. Resultingly, the relationship between God and humanity is often viewed as the meeting of these two streams.
The works visualize narratives of women whose acts, albeit antinomian and against the mainstream, function as female waters (mayim nukvin) connecting between above and below, between heaven and earth. The images reflect the power of creation flowing through the feminine life forces that are like birth fluids. The unique forces connecting the messianic mother figures such as Rachel, Lea, Tamar, Miriam, Ruth, Nitzevet, Esther in guise of the hind of dawn, Yalta as well as the female figure collecting sparks out of the dark, are portrayed in their actions for the sake of the Divine will to be a vessel channeling God’s manifestation in this world. Alongside the rain pouring down from heaven, symbolizing the male attitude to the commandments, their approach is an autonomous one whose source is not obedience but love. By means of their feminine wisdom coming from elsewhere, from the water’s depths, these female figures choose to awaken, soften and mend the world through a vision of messianic history by virtue of their stories.