Chabad hosts Hasidic artist’s exhibition

BY MIKE SHERWIN, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

For Michoel Muchnik, art and faith are inextricably intertwined.

In dreamy, soft pastels, Muchnik creates intricate paintings and bas-relief mosaics that explore themes of Jewish faith and mysticism.

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Over the past 30 years, Muchnik has become a leading Hasidic artist, creating art with multiple levels of symbolism illustrating the depth of his faith’s teachings.

“I try to imbue my work with the light and joy of the Hasidic or Kabbalistic explanations on the Torah’s wisdom,” Muchnik said in a telephone interview from his home in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“Where there may just be a scene or an urn at first glance, with a closer look you’ll notice intricate details with layers of Jewish symbolism,” he said.

St. Louisans will get the chance to view over 40 examples of Muchnik’s work at a one-day exhibition called “Art & Soul,” held by Chabad of Greater St. Louis.

The event takes place on Sunday, Jan. 14 from noon to 3 p.m. at the Center Court of Plaza Frontenac.

Muchnik will attend the event, and speak about the extensive use of parables and symbolism in his work. All of the work presented will be for sale, and proceeds support Chabad.

Muchnik said while he has always been involved in art, and received formal training at the Rhode Island Institute of Design, the defining moment for his art came when he began studying Chassidic teachings.

“I was from a traditional Jewish household, but not so observant,” he said. After studying Hasidism, “I just gained so much inspirational content that i just wanted to portray, and it has never ended. In fact, it just grows,” Muchnik said.

Muchnik’s work has been exhibited extensively, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Goldman Arts Gallery in Washington, D.C., Yeshiva University Museum in New York, the Dansforth Museum in Massachusetts, the Sydney Jewish Museum and the Sharei Tzedek Collection in Israel.

One of his largest works, “The Treasured Land,” a 6′ by 24′ sculptural mural depicting the Land of Israel is on display in the Jewish Children’s Museum in New York.

Rabbi Yosef Landa, executive director of Chabad, said Muchnik is “something of a rarity.”

“There aren’t many Hasidic artists around, and he has achieved some world renown, so it’s quite an opportunity for us to be able to host this exhibition,” Landa said. In addition, Landa said that Muchnik’s work serves to show that religion and art can go hand in hand.

“People often think that there’s a certain rigidity to religion, that it’s somewhat at odds to the freedom of expression in art,” Landa said. “I think it’s illuminating for the community to see a Hasidic artist whose art is not only not in conflict with his religion, but who is able to use art as a religious expression.”

Muchnik said he hopes those attending the exhibit will “walk away inspired, and with a renewed interest and beauty and wisdom of the Torah.”

“And on a practical level, of course,” he said, “I also hope they’ll walk away with a painting or a lithograph.”

For more information about “Art & Soul,” contact Chabad at 314-725-0400.