Out of This (Art) World
By Michelle Zis
spent fourteen days of my summer with a group of twenty twenty-somethings in
Israel. For five of those days we explored the Northern Israeli town called
Tzfat, an artist colony as well as the birthplace of Kabbalah. As our group
wondered through the artist quarter, my new friends would ask me, “Hey art history
girl, don’t you love all this art?” Unimpressed by Impressionistic paintings
of the Holy Land and the Marc Chagall rip-offs I responded honestly, “I’m sorta
an art snob.” They really didn’t know what I meant by that. The group was buying
prints of the Wailing Wall for their aunts, uncles, coworkers and significant
others while I was stuffing my face with falafel.
One afternoon we visited Avraham Loewenthal’s Tzfat Gallery of Mystical Art. Loewenthal, a self-described Kabbalistic artist, makes and sells his own artwork. Unlike my reaction to the other art around town, upon entering his gallery, I pointed to certain paintings and in perfect art world fashion said, “That’s a good piece.”
We all sat on Loewenthal’s carpet as he explained ancient Jewish mysticism and his journey towards becoming a Kabbalistic artist. Born in Michigan, Robert Loewenthal (Avraham was his given Hebrew name) was an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan and a graduate student at SAIC. He discussed how he was on a plane to India to “find himself” before discovering that his own religion, Judaism, could teach him about spirituality.I was surprised by how much I had in common with this guy. I, too, studied at the University of Michigan and now, of course, SAIC. Obviously, I have a deep invested interest in art and about five years ago I dabbled in the study of Kabbalah, now a household word thanks to Madonna. One thing that Kabbalah teaches is to never deem anything just a coincidence. As a result, I started to overanalyze my connection to Loewenthal and the Tzfat Gallery of Mystical Art.