box by Tobi Kahn
To make art is natural, an act in the image of the Creator, who fashioned the world from breath, light, horizon, and the holiness of distinctions. For me, the life of the artist is bound to the earth’s beauty and praise of the One.
This tzedek box, ZAHRYZ, is meant to empower us to record and remember each time over the course of a year that we contribute to the world’s healing. I have been inspired by the emerging Jewish ritual of a tzedek box, to which we add notes that capture our thoughts each time we do a righteous deed. Once a year, on Pesach Sheini (yom ha-tzedek), we open the box and reflect the extent to which we have brought more light to our communities – and how we might do more. ZAHRYZ is my contribution to this powerful practice.
ZAHRYZ is one of many ritual objects I have created over the last 40 years. They include omer counters, shalom bat chairs, birkat ha-chamah sculptures, tu b’shvat seder plates, yahrzeit lights, Torah arks, Holocaust memorials, and meditative spaces.
This box is comprised of 70 pieces, representing the 70 nations of the world, a Biblical allusion to all of humanity. It is sculpted from wood and suggesting a cityscape. I then added multiple layers of paint, whose colors suggest sky, water, and the greening earth, with glazes that form a translucent surface to signify the importance of protecting our fragile planet.
Like all my ceremonial art, ZAHRYZ is designed to exemplify the three essential elements of a Jewish ritual object: beauty, functionality, and meaning.
Tobi Kahn is a painter and sculptor whose work has been shown in over 50 solo exhibitions and over 70 museum and groups shows since he was selected as one of nine artists to be included in the 1985 Guggenheim Museum exhibition, New Horizons in American Art. Works by Kahn are in major museum, corporate, and private collections.
For thirty years, Kahn has been steadfast in the pursuit of his distinct vision and persistent in his commitment to the redemptive possibilities of art. In paint, stone, and bronze, he has explored the correspondence between the intimate and monumental. While his early works drew on the tradition of American Romantic landscape painting, his more recent pieces reflect his fascination with contemporary science, inspired by the micro-images of cell formations and satellite photography
For twenty-five years, Kahn has been making miniature sacred spaces he calls "shrines." The first full-scale shrine, Shalev, is in New Harmony, Indiana, commissioned as an outdoor sculpture for Jane Owen and the Robert Lee Blaffer Trust.
Among the awards that Kahn has received are the Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award from Pratt Institute in 2000; the Cultural Achievement Award for the Visual Arts from the National Foundation of Jewish Culture in 2004; and an Honorary Doctorate from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2007 for his work as an artist and educator.
Kahn also communicates his vision through his passion for teaching. For twenty-eight years, he has taught fine arts workshops at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He also designed the art curriculum for several high schools in the New York area and co-founded and facilitates the Artists' Beit Midrash at the Skirball Center of Temple Emanu-El. Kahn lectures extensively at universities and public forums internationally on the importance of visual language and art as healing.
Visit Tobi Kahn's career narrative to learn more.