T o m  W a c h s

What Guides Me

I enjoy using an implement as an extension of my hands, my eyes, my head and heart. Tools and materials sometimes initiate and determine my process of creating, and at other times, the process is pushed forward through a connection to an image or idea, an object, place, or phrase. Inevitably these varied sparks shift back and forth, with conversations among all of them, animating the journey.
What is the job at hand? While creating an image or object, I strive to focus with the same intention and intensity as when regarding a bird that may fly away from the branch at any moment. As I work, I know my visual focus can take flight in an instant, replaced by an emotion or a thought. I try to stay attuned to this continual interchange and my desire is that each piece reverberate with the tangible and intangible that has informed its creation.

About Ladders and Up, Down, Crossing Over

Up, Down, Crossing Over and Ladders include pieces completed over the past three years which arise from a reverberating emotional response to my reading and study of the Zohar, a 13th. century text, considered the pinnacle of the Jewish mystical literary imagination. When I began to study the Zohar five years ago, I did not anticipate this reaction nor was it immediate. 
Part of me now is reticent to mention my experience with the Zohar as a generating spark and inspiration for this work because I feel that referencing this, or perhaps any mystical text, can instantly become a roadblock and inhibition for many to engaging with the work, as it might seem to be connecting my work to something esoteric and difficult to relate to.
What prompts me to proceed is the fact that my reaction was unanticipated and it was emotional. I was not responding to specialized arcane knowledge or teachings but, through its surprising, inventive, and sometimes challenging use of language, to the author’s profound understanding and deep appreciation of that elemental human yearning to seek and feel bound to something larger than ourselves. While the Zohar uses language, it recognizes its limitations to lead us to an encounter with the ineffable. However, rather than establishing or accepting boundaries, it expands connections and invites us  in, taking us on journeys that transform the known and familiar in unexpected and surprising ways.
I regard the Zohar as expressing a spirit kindred to my own aspiration to be open to the possibility that any moment can become an experience of uncovering, inventing, stumbling across, or fashioning new connections. Ultimately, I hope the work on these pages convey some of the excitement of attentive exploration, curiosity, and wonder I have encountered in the Zohar.

                                       Photograph: Gayle Zahler ©2021