Her Mikvah, Kedushat Yetzirah      
 
BIOGRAPHY

SELECTED PORTFOLIOS

Bearing Witness: The Voices of Our Survivors
The "Mikvah" series

- Her Mikvah, Kedushat Yetzirah (Updated version, Powerpoint)
- Her Mikvah, Kedushat Yetzirah (Holiness of Creation)
- Transformation
- Leaving Childhood

Women of the Wall
The Fence
IVF
Margaret
These are some Jews that Hitler Did Not Get
Conversations with Dad
Mother Daughter 2003
Mother Daughter 2004
Mother Daugter 2005
Mother Daughter 2006
Jewelry

RESEARCH

TEACHING

CURRICULUM VITAE

LINKS
 

Artist’s Statement

Dena Elisabeth Eber

 

Her Mikvah, Kedushat Yetzirah (Holiness of Creation)

 

Using the Jewish ritual of a Mikvah (ritual bath), this series challenges ancient notions of Niddah (a woman's separation period during and just after menstruation) when a woman is Tumah (spiritually unclean), with a contemporary feminist interpretation. Some images contain pictures of ancient Mikvaot photographed in Israel with present-day women, thus suggesting a modern reframing of the ritual. In this work I celebrate a woman's health and wholeness, regardless of her gender bias and relationship, menstrual, or sexual status.  

 

The Mikvah is not, as commonly thought, about cleaning oneself, but rather about spiritual renewal, a transition from one way of being to another. Although Mikvaot are significant for both males and females, they have special meaning for women. One contemporary practice for married orthodox women is tied to their menstrual cycle. Rules surrounding this immersion, known as Tohorat HaMishpahah (family purity) are extensive and strict, and dictate sexual and physical relations between a husband and wife and the woman's status in her community during Niddah. Although these principles exclude many women and could be seen to impose an element of shame in regards to the gifts of menstruation, the ancient practice still has beautiful and positive aspects and is a celebration of a woman's sexuality and her sanctity of creation (Grossman). By "sanctity of creation" I mean that the female form is about creation itself (yetzirah). It is this holiness that I want to focus on in my art with hopes that others see the same range of celebratory possibilities beyond a limited practice.

 

The title of these works, Kedushat Yetzirah (Holiness of Creation), also translated as the "sanctity of creation," replaces the term Tohorat HaMishpahah, (family purity), thus contemporizing the Mikvah ritual and emphasizing the affirmative facets of the practice and of femininity. These positive dimensions, along with contemporary ideas of inclusivity regarding a woman's individual gender bias and relationship, menstrual or sexual status are what these images highlight. In my work, the Mikvah celebrates the beauty of femininity and the freedom for all women to be spiritually transformed and always Tehorah (spiritually pure).

 

Each image is made up of three or more digital photographs that I merge, paint and collage on the computer. I use a number of techniques, including a modified version of high dynamic range photography (HDR) in which I merge many photographs with different exposure settings, but also with different content. I further correct exposure by hand and add parts of different photographs, in some cases so it appears like a collage and in other cases so it seems as if the content was there when it was shot. I finish off many of the works by using digital paint tools to add texture, color or to give a different feeling to the picture. The images are printed using special archival watercolor paper and inks on high-end printers with custom profiles.