Thursday, June 16, 2011


FLORA'S HANDS. Flora frames the "Shin," a symbol signifying God, on her piece, "Divide the Waters." 

Hallelujah for the SPIRIT! Hallelujah for ART! Hallelujah for those who express their JOURNEY of the HEART in SPIRITUAL ART! In the middle of May, I had the good fortune to interview Flora Rosefsky (see her amazingly rich website) at her studio in Sycamore Place Gallery, Decatur, Georgia, USA. Surrounded by Flora’s old and new, small and large, original and reproductions was intensely pleasurable for me. We joyously discussed her fruitful SPIRITUAL ART PILGRIMAGE for my fifth SAP interview for my blog COFFEE WITH HALLELUJAH!

Flora Rosefsky in her studio at Sycamore Place Gallery, Decatur, Georgia, USA

HALLELUJAH: Give me your personal definition of ART.

FLORA: Being imaginative and creative in a way to express ideas and feelings in a visual way, including music, poetry and theatre. Art is a very powerful energy.

I don’t separate art as a subject. It is like who I am and is a part of me. I see things visually. If you tell me directions to get somewhere, I have to make a map. If I attend a lecture, I have to write it down.


FLORA: I like the word spirituality because it covers more than just religion. Spirituality beautifies and gives another level of appreciation to an every day moment. It is a kind of sensitivity that raises experience up a notch. Every day, I see something new and different. Spirituality is not equal to religion; it is more of a philosophy.


FLORA: In the Jewish religion, you are born into a particular “tradition.” Hindus are born into a caste. But there is a kind of randomness. Religions allow people to convert, or I could have been raised Catholic. But because I was born a Jewish person, we are people of the Book. Because there is so much emphasis on the Word, Judaism is a religion that is very fluid. Ask three questions, get 4 answers, and get three more questions.

I believe in interfaith. I meet with women from different religions at Rock Spring Presbyterian Church. We attend lectures on faith, read books, and go on field trips to mosques and Hindu temples.

Instead of saying we should tolerate each other, I say we should appreciate each other. I don’t force my religion onto others or say that Judaism is “the” way. I appreciate knowing other ways and being kind to others. Considering the turmoil and unrest in the world, we need to have more interfaith dialogues and find out the positive about each other’s religion.

HALLELUJAH: How do your spirituality and religion fit together?

FLORA: Well in my earlier work, my religion became the source of the subject matter. It was very basic about the holidays and how I celebrate them with my family. It was personal.
PASSOVER. Here in marker and pen on paper, Flora Rosefsky depicts the Passover seder. At this time, family and friends gather around the table to eat symbolic foods and retell the story of The Exodus. Flora has created 12 folk art drawings showing traditional Jewish Life-cycle events, festivals, and holidays. This image actually depicts her family and friends using their family dishes. Flora is seated on the right at the end of the table. See her other traditional drawings at this link.

JEWISH WEDDING. Dancing to the Hora, family and friends hoist the bride and groom up on two chairs while they hold onto a handkerchief. Again, Flora depicts a personal scene from her life. This shows her daughter's wedding. The handkerchief is based on a real one with its own fascinating story.

Then I started using parts of the “text.” At that time, the Torah was not illuminated to the extent it is today. I could be doing the interpretation of my religion and text forever.

LET THERE BE LIGHT. “According to many scientists, the beginning of our universe was created billions of years ago. In a more literary and metaphorical sense, according to the sacred text of Torah, we are led to believe that the beginning of our world came about with the story of creation. On the first ‘day’ God created light from a severe and totally black void.” Flora Rosefsky’s explanation of this piece on her website, which is exceptionally well written and is a wonderful destination for any Spiritual Art Pilgrim.

The spirituality part is taking something to another level.

HALLELUJAH: What is that “something”?

FLORA: Well, my son would always ask, “What is the meaning of life?” There is a lot of mystery in life. For example, why do bad things happen to people, why are we on this earth, for what?

I try to make the days count by doing good deeds and being a good person.

HALLELUJAH: Can you give me an example in your ART of how you have explored the MYSTERY

FLORA: The spirituality element is in this piece, “Divide the Waters.” These words were written 3,000 years ago, yet we still find the mystery in “dividing the waters.” Think of how the Mississippi is flooding in Tennessee and Louisiana right now. That force and power of nature is incredible! How do you deal with that? How is that expressed?
DIVIDE THE WATERS. Flora Rosefsky made this piece in contemplation of the second day of creation, a universal narrative that she says is shared by Judaism, Christianity, Islam and other faiths and traditions. 

I go back to my spirituality and my religion. We can’t be too secure in where we are living. There is this concept of impermanence. I get inspiration from Judaism or the Old Testament. We are still on a journey.

HALLELUJAH: You have also pursued the theme of “shelter and sanctuary” in your ART.

FLORA: Yes, I build a Sukkah every year on our porch. I work on
making sense out of a very chaotic world. My spirituality grounds me a little bit more than I would otherwise be.

SUKKAH. A banner Flora made in 2003 based on the Biblical Commandment to dwell in Sukkah for seven days.

SUKKAH ON PAPER. In another depiction of the Sukkah using ephemera found paper, gouache, and paper cutouts, Flora Rosefsky captures her family’s tradition of making a temporary booth. Here the roof is covered with corn stalks but her family can still see the sky and the full moon. See other work in her Ritual Series.

HALLELUJAH: What is the connection between the ART you make and your spirituality?

FLORA: There is a huge connection because I am message driven to a point that I want that message to come through in my work. I want to express the depth of a certain idea where viewers can “see” my interpretation instead of only reading the words.

I do love using paper from my family that may have been thrown away. For example, by incorporating papers from my father-in-law, mother, or uncle in my art connects me to them and their lives. My father-in-law never threw anything away. His precious journals and writing adds another level to my work.

HALLELUJAH: Your family seems to play a role in your ART and SPIRITUALITY.

FLORA: My family is top priority in my life—my husband, children, and grandchildren. This is who I am. I am a wife, mother, and grandmother. And there’s the spirituality of who I am, which goes into my art, like my work in the “shelter and sanctuary” series. It expresses how precious this life is.

I think also—as I get older—in numbers. I’m in a pretty good decade now—the 70s! It is meaningful to think about the legacy I’m going to leave behind. My visual art is something that will stay after I am gone. They are visual statements of who I am to the people that I have loved.

HALLELUJAH: In what way does your ART enhance your SPIRITUALITY?

FLORA: There is a Hebrew commandment—Hiddur Mitzvah, which means to beautify one’s place of worship or a ritual item. Fulfilling that commandment is fulfilling personally.

For instance, I worked on the stained glass windows for the synagogue in Roswell. It is extremely thrilling to have work in a place of worship where thousands of people will see it.  Once in a while I will go out to Roswelll and sit there. Having work in a public space is not like having work in a home.

STAINED GLASS WINDOWS. “A Community Embracing Torah” by Flora Rosefsky at the Temple Kehillat Chaim in Roswell, Georgia. See other images.
I do a lot of Judaic work for my family and home to make things more spiritually artistic. For example is that Tzedukah box right there.

Flora points to a small aluminum square container with a coin slot in the top indicating it is the Tzedukah box. It has one of her images on it.

Tzedukah means righteousness—to do the right thing. We put money in the Tzedukah every Friday on the Shabbat. When our Tzedukah box gets filled, we discuss as a family what we are going to do with the money. We research causes and make a decision together.

HALLELUJAH: Has SPIRITUALITY always been a source of your ARTMAKING?  Why? If not, when did the SPIRITUALITY emerge in your ART?

FLORA: I don’t think it was always. In the beginning, I was sitting on a park bench drawing with magic markers while my children were riding a carousel. That wasn’t spiritual.

It was after my first trip to Israel, which was very profound. Emotions come to you that you didn’t think were there. It is very powerful—this connection to religion and history. It transformed me.

My family started doing things differently, like building a Sukkah. I wanted my artwork to have more meaning. I became active in my Jewish community center. I’m a reader, and the more I did research in my synagogue, one thing led to another.

HALLELUJAH: Who (artists, authors, friends, etc.) do you consider influential in the way you think, act, and make ART?

FLORA: I have to give a lot of credit to a teacher, James Ridlon, who is an art professor at Syracuse University.  He taught a course to Binghamton, New York area art teachers so they could get credit for a master’s. Because I was the only one in class not an art teacher, I was called the “civilian.”

I was like a child discovering a part of me that I had never really pushed. I had done art as a child, but I never had confidence that I could really “do” art. I was like a sponge in this class. Professor Ridlon was happy I had not been through the academic route. He thought I was blank slate almost. I was very intuitive, and he wanted me to have my own voice. I took three classes with him. When he finished with me, he told me that I needed to continue. He was the one that told me I was an artist. Because of him, I took more art classes.

HALLELUJAH: What is your purpose for making ART?

FLORA: Does there have to be a purpose? It is like breathing. This is what I do. (Flora throws her hands into the air.) I can’t think of not doing art. I like documenting. If I am not doing a show, I am doodling. Art is a way to communicate in a visual way. To make people think. 

In the 1950s, women had so few choices. My daughters are different. Now, I’m doing things that probably a 20-year-old would be doing today. I’m living my life in reverse. I have my own studio, my independence, my own work. The beautiful thing about being an artist, is there is no retirement.

I have this medical condition with my hands. When I can’t use them in the way I am accustomed to, I will find another way to make art. Matisse started making cutouts when he couldn’t paint any more.

I feel fortunate that I’m artist. When I wake up in the morning, there is a sense of fulfillment.
PERSONAL SANCTUARY. Using a found 1940s tablecloth, newspaper, acrylic paint and pen, Flora Rosefsky expresses her sense of finding sanctuary within her own home leaving behind the outside world of chaos and unpredictability. Flora in her studio in Decatur, Georgia, USA.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Heaps of heartfelt gratitude to Flora Rosefsky, who is such a loving generous SOUL. After our interview, she had me join her for a meeting of the Women’s Caucus for the Arts of Georgia and supported me in becoming a member. Flora mentors many of the artists at Sycamore Place Gallery.  Always, I lovingly thank and praise my partner Chiboogamoo for his eternal support of my Hallelujah endeavors and sustaining patience when assisting me with all things technical.
COLLAGE WEDDING. Versatile in her perceptions and execution of a theme, here Flora Rosefsky depicts a Jewish Wedding using collage. Notice the glass in this image.  The groom breaks a glass at the end of a marriage ceremony to depict the destruction of the temple that occurred thousands of years ago.

That’s Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me and tell me what excites your SPIRIT when you wake up in the morning! See the first four SAP blogs: Cecelia Kane, Robey Tapp, Karen Phillips, and Carol Ruckdeschel.


  1. What a wonderful interview of Flora! I love what she said about "appreciating each other." And her work...I want to see more and find out more about the work I see in her studio. I feel more connected to her having read about her connection to her work. Thank you!

  2. Dearest Karen! As one of my SPIRITUAL ART PILGRIMS, it means a lot to me that you benefited from reading this interview with Flora. Isn't it wonderful to discover more about something you see almost every day? In this case, how many times have you walked by Flora's studio on the way to yours without knowing the history both personal and historic behind her work! Thank you Karen for commenting!

  3. I love this interview with Flora and seeing the depth of her past and present work.Ideas of sanctuary, righteousness, doing good, family are so spiritual in her hands. I'm especially intrigued by the idea of building one's own guest hut-the Sukkah. The Judaic God must be an installation artist. Wonderful stuff to see!

  4. SEE SEE--I'm excited that you might be considering building a Sukkah! I want to be a part of it! Or perhaps we can each build our own and visit one another! Flora can show us how!