REFLECTIONS JOURNAL, VOL. VIII (ARTIST ISSUE), WINTER, 2018

Please enjoy this gallery of visual, audio and literary art by presenters at the Fall, 2017 Soul Space Interfaith Retreat.

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LESLIE CONNIE

Special-education teacher at Evanston Township High School for 28 years. Currently teaching driver’s ed at the American Defensive Driving School in Evanston.  Single mother of 3, Hosea age 24, Isaac age 22 and Alina age 17; she considers them her greatest accomplishment and reward!  Previously a member of Covenant United Church of Christ in South Holland, Il. but currently she enjoys attending Morton Grove Community Church.  Leslie has been singing since she was a little girl.  Her first love is Gospel music.  Secondly, she loves Jazz and R&B.  She also loves to cook and bake.

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Sevim surucu

www.sevimsurucu.com

Ebru (Turkish Paper Marbling) artist living in Chicago, IL. I graduated from Istanbul University with a Bachelor of Art degree in Landscape Architecture. After working as a landscape architect for a while in Turkey, I moved to the United States. I started studying the art of paper marbling because I wanted to combine the design skills that I learned in my undergraduate years, with my love of nature.
In my marblings, I utilize traditional flower forms and contemporary designs as well as designs of my own. I held multiple demonstrations in Chicago, IL; St. Louis, MO; Los Angeles, CA; Irvine, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; Phoenix, AZ; Atlanta, GA; Urbana, IL; Raleigh, NC; Carbondale, IL; and Springfield, IL.
Aside from paper marbling, I have a passion for landscape design and the Art of Illumination (Tezhip). I recently started studying Tezhip as part of my dream to introduce the various traditional Turkish art forms in the United States, such as Calligraphy, Earthenware (Cini), and Miniature Painting (Minyatur). I am married and have three children.

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NANCY LABIAK

I am somewhat hopeless in the eye/hand coordination department. This was particularly upsetting and challenging in the four years I spent in the convent studying to be a nun—as nuns were SUPPOSED to be “artistic”. I attempted medium after medium—trying everything from water color to sculpture, potato stamps to Kleenex tissue tearing! I was dreadful at it all!

I would finally discover however that my particular artistic talent lies in “painting” pictures with my words. I am a Story Teller.

This gift was brought home to me when one of my early mentors in the convent, Sr. Fabian Rose, was dying of brain cancer in Houston TX. Several of us who had loved and grown from this woman’s wisdom traveled to Texas to tell her “Good-Bye”. We were gathered around her hospice bed in her brother’s living room and she kept saying something softly again and again. We couldn’t make it out her words. Finally her brother leaned over, putting his ear close to her mouth. He straightened up looking puzzled. “She is saying” ‘Nancy tell me one of your stories’. And so I did. It was my last gift to her.

Many of my stories are connected to my spirituality. They hopefully capture and attest to my core belief in a God who walks WITH us opening doors. I have experienced this truth time and again in my life. The story below is such a story—of God opening up the world for me in a very unexpected location!

Telling a story and writing a story are two very different arts. I told this story at the Fall Soul Space Retreat. As I have been asked to re-create the story in the written word. I can only hope that the tale does not lose too much in the transition.

The Sky Is The Limit, story by Nancy Labiak

JUDITH JOSEPH

www.judithjosephstudio.com

On Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, we recite a prayer in synagogue that uses the metaphor of the artist or craftsperson to describe God’s creation:

Like the clay in the hand of a potter

Who expands or contracts it at will

So are we in Your hand, God of constant love.

Oh, look to the covenant and do not heed the Accuser.

The prayer goes on to compare God to the stone-mason, the glass-blower, the silver-smith, etc.  This prayer always moves me profoundly, because it reminds me that God is engaged in a constant act of creation.  It also makes me aware that each time I create something artistically, I am mimicking the holy act of Creation.

When I direct my intention to creating art, I am mindful of the holiness of creation.  I say a prayer of gratitude for the gift of life and freedom that brought me to the moment of creation, and for my skills and gifts

Immersing myself in creative work, I set my ego aside, transcending the bounds of myself.  I am aware of the precious gifts of life, thoughts and emotions that contribute to my work.  I escape the limitations of my personality and situation and embrace a connection with God.

I am a calligrapher, and artistically, I prefer Hebrew letters to English.  Hebrew is an ancient, holy language, and writing it places me in a long line of scribes going back thousands of years.  The language, and the act of writing, connects me with holy text, my ancestors, my heritage.

When my work includes Hebrew or Jewish content, I feel the added benefit of exploring and transmitting my cultural heritage.

KATHLEEN WETSTEIN

Kathleen Wetstein is a Spiritual Director who uses her art as prayer.  She has studied at the Spirituality Center of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and holds certificates from the John Paul II Center for New Evangelization, Archdiocese of Denver, the Claret Center, Hyde Park, Chicago, and Bishop Anderson House, Chicago. She is a retired Catholic school teacher.   Kathy is a wife, mother and grandmother.  She and her husband, Dan are parishioners at St. John Berchmans, Logan Square. In her visual contemplative art, she plays and prays.  Contact Kathy at kjwetz@gmail.com.

SARWAT KHAN

www.sarwatkhan.net

Sarwat Khan is a Chicago based commission Artist. She is working as an artist for last 12 years. Her talent and her experience in the field made her work phenomenally outstanding. She went to college for studying Fine Arts and to further polishes her God gifted talent. Her ability and hard work made her into a brilliant Painter. She has participated in various shows and her work also has been recognized by local magazine. Her works consist of many different styles; Religious, Impressionism, expressionism, minimalism, Modernism, and geometric abstract art. The excellence and uniqueness in her panting is apparent and shows her dedication to her passion and how profoundly she embraces art. Her passion and love for creating art convinced her to work with many other Medias of art, for example, sculpture, ceramics, drawing, and photography.  She works with her clients with enthusiasm and produce specifically according to their request, requirements, and needs.

My work has changed drastically in recent years. As the state of my heart changed the nature of my work changed. As I got closer to my Lord, my religion, my work transformed into a religious work. It describes my faith, verses from Quran, the names of Allah(God) etc. Everything I am doing reflects my faith, my love for God, love for my Religion, love for humankind. My intention has changed wholeheartedly, I intend to create work that is a source of calling people towards Allah, toward the religion, to bring blessing in their lives, their home, their being. Moreover, so it is source of enlightenment in people's life, it brings blessing, peace, tranquility, mercy, love of Allah, the light of Allah in their homes and their lives. Eventually, so it brings peace and to my heart and soul. The peace and tranquility I find while painting the Words, the beautiful speech of God(Allah) is indescribable.  Consequently, I intend to tell the world, Islam is a beautiful religion and it only prevails peace and love. 

JANE WEINTRAUB

I'm a Professor of Art (Metalworking and Jewlery) at Northeastern Illinois University. In my free time I love reading, working out, playing tennis, and doing political/social justice work. Most of all I love being with my family.

JERRY ZBIRAL

Over the last 40-some years the visual arts have played an integral part in my life. I have made, taught, written about, sold and appraised the value of artworks. I have an extensive exhibition and publication record and am a partner in The Collected Image, conducting appraisals and providing contemporary and vintage photographs to major collectors and institutions. I have produced and directed 3 award-winning films, and am a partner in the India, Fulbright-funded project: Following the Box.

My presentation dealt with being born Catholic, leaving the church at an early age, meeting my Jewish husband, raising Jewish children and eventually, in 2003, converting to Judaism. 

My mother survived 3 years of concentration camp during WW2, not because she was Jewish – she was not – but because she happened to live in the village of Lidice, a town that was burnt to the ground in 1942 due to the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich on the streets of Prague.  Her almost-daily stories had a profound effect on my life – some negative (extreme anger), some positive – (an innate sense of survival).

Being a refugee and immigrant 3 times, I have experienced the traumatic consequences of being without a homeland, acute loneliness, alienation, marginalization and being an outsider many times over.  It has been a life-long struggle to “belong” – to be wholly part of a family, a community and a country. 

I am extremely fortunate to be an artist, to be able to work through issues, to be able to face and sometimes expel demons through my art.

DINA REHAB

Dina Rehab studied Tezhip (تذهيب), the art of illumination, for three years between Istanbul and Chicago under, Nebahat Pektas, government recognized Tezhip artist and long-term student of the Süheyl Ünver Nakışhanesi (one of the most credible and classic-styled tezhip ateliers in Turkey). Dina also studied tezhip for nine months at the Süheyl Ünver Atelier under Seyda Mehmetoglu, and under the direction of renowned, Gülbün Mesara. Though Dina has dedicated intensive hours to the intricate art of Tezhip during the period of her study, she considers herself on her first step of this beautiful traditional art that has been refined over the centuries through the brushstrokes of masters. Tezhip or تذهيب, is derived from the Arabic word ذهب or gold and literally means "to make gold". The art is traditionally used to decorate pages from the Holy Quran, holy verses and important manuscripts.