Joseph Sherman, a Haredi Jerusalemite, discusses the inspiration behind his Kotel artistic series and how his portrayals of the Kotel are connected to Jewish religious themes.
The Hebrew letter Aleph Photo Credit: Joseph Sherman
Joseph Sherman, a Haredi Jerusalemite, is in love with the artistic world. He emphasized, “There are many challenges in life. Hashem wants us to take the colors that we have and turn them into a beautiful painting.” He traveled to many places around the world when he was in business school. Some of these places include France, Italy, Germany and China. Sherman stated, “In addition to business, I was impressed by the major works of art around the world. I realized that the one thing that gets artists together is that artists throughout the ages and from different places across the globe look at the world around them and try to find meaning in it.”
He believes that something that we think is very simple can become a great piece of art. Sherman thinks the perfect example of this phenomenon is the Great Wall of China. Sherman stated, “I saw this in the Great Wall of China. I always imagined it to be a great flat wall. But when I was walking around the wall, part of it follows the plateau on a mountainside and it weaves and curves around; it is very beautiful.”
Taking inspiration from what he witnessed at the Great Wall of China and upon receiving encouragement from Rabbi Issamar Ginzberg, Sherman started an artistic series about the Kotel. He emphasized, “I realized a lot of what I paint is really simple things. We often take things for granted. We don’t recognize the beauty in something very common.” At the Kotel, he looks at the notes that people place inside its ancient walls as an artistic story that needs to get told.
According to Sherman, “I never before noticed what people wrote. People often will have dreams about a future husband or wife, getting healed from a sickness, will pray for the well-being of a loved one, and for peace in the Middle East.” However, he believes that the simple task of a regular person placing a note in the Kotel can be artistically expressed in a painting. He stated, “I never noticed that children left notes in the Kotel two or three feet above ground at the Kotel, at their level. Secular people would also daven and place a note at the Kotel. It is beautiful to look at someone praying.” He concluded, “Everyone has a whole world of things behind them that they are asking Hashem for. I realized it is one thing to look at the Kotel, but it is another to look at one child’s note placed inside its ancient holy walls.”
A dove painting at the Kotel Photo Credit: Joseph Sherman
As part of the Kotel series, Sherman is painting doves of peace and other beautiful birds flying over the skyline of the Kotel. “The Torah speaks of doves as representing peace and of the Jewish people returning to their ancestral homeland on the wings of eagles. For this reason, I felt it was important to artistically represent the Kotel through the lens of birds,” Sherman stated. At the Kotel, he often sees birds flying in the sky and for him, seeing Jews pray with birds flying above in the background is the “fulfillment of prophesy right before ones eyes.”
A Jewish wedding canopy, known in Hebrew as a chupah Photo Credit: Joseph Sherman
In another part of his Kotel series, Sherman artistically portrays the vibrant celebrations that occur at Jewish weddings that take place beside the remnants of the ancient Jewish Temple. “The bride comes in white to the marriage canopy, known in Hebrew as the chupah. This represents the revitalization of the Jewish people living in Eretz Yisrael,” Sherman explained. “The Prophet Jeremiah wrote at a time when there was complete and utter destruction in the Land of Israel that there would be one day celebrations and weddings throughout the eternal holy capital city of the Jewish people, Jerusalem. For thousands of years, we have been looking forward to this and now, we see it with our own eyes.”