HEBREW LETTERS BY SARAHLEAH, launched in the fall of 1997 by watercolorist and Jewish scholar, SarahLeah Hankes, produces original paintings, prints and cards based on Hebrew letters. Developed in a painstaking recording of study, meditation, experience, and feeling in watercolors and text, the uniqueness of her paintings lies not just in the eloquence of their illustration, but in the down-to-earth, yet scholarly teachings of their texts.
Ms. Hankes uses primary sources of research from the Talmud, Midrash, Mishneh Torah, Sefer Yetzirah, The Bahir and other ancient Kabbalistic books, as well as her own personal devotion to explore the significance, history and symbolism of the thoughts embodied in the Hebrew letters in the text of each painting and print
Ms. Hankes, who has a Masters Degree in Jewish Studies, began her Judaic education late in life like many Jewish women. In the course of her Hebrew language studies she began drawing the Hebrew alphabet and became immediately captivated by the calligraphic letter forms. Her religious and spiritual search with mentor Rabbi Mitchell Chefitz included the practice of the Merkavah, an ancient two-person meditation system which was developed by 1st century Rabbis. While practicing the Merkavah, in which one person travels and the other serves as a guide, the letters began emerging to her and proved the ancient Kabbalistic belief that indeed the letters are alive. - Carol Adelman.
LETTER PERFECT By LINDA MORGAN,Mercer Island Reporter
Wednesday, April 9, 1998
"To SarahLeah Hankes, the playful, vibrant Hebrew letters colorfully portrayed in her paintings possess a presence and a spirit and a life of their own. She gazes at her paintings and prints with delight and with wonder as if she hadnt been the one to actually paint them.
I just love these skiers, she laughs, pointing to a smiling golden letter she calls Znowboarding Zayin gleefully zipping through the snow. The faces they came as a surprise.
Hebrew letters with faces? Golden symbols snowboarding down slopes?
The fusion of art and spirituality come naturally to this Island resident, whos schooled in meditation, Jewish studies and watercolors. A painter since her early 20s, she began drawing Hebrew letters, after the letters started appearing to her in meditation. Other people dont see the letters as I see them, said SarahLeah. People dont know how alive and exciting they are. They are not just words they all have a story. SarahLeah tells those stories on the back of every card and print
I want people to see the joy in these letters, says SarahLeah. When people see them, they smile. They make you feel good.
Its clear they make SarahLeah feel good she beams over her boxes of paintings as though they were babies in baskets. I have the most fun with them, she said. When I began drawing the Hebrew letters, I fell in love with them, she explains. Each letter is alive and has its own personality
they are thousands of years old and have an energy all their own. Each letter speaks differently to each of us.
She senses a kind of mystical aura about the letters. They have tremendous power because they are so old. When you have something that has been revered for so many years and used spiritually, the letters become charged.
As SarahLeah advises on the backs of each of her paintings or prints: `Choose the letter that vibrates for you. Take it for your own. Draw it. Meditate on it. Love it. And it will bring you joy.'