Sylvia Ramos Alotta, “Taharah – The Last Act of Kindness”

SYLVIA RAMOS ALOTTA
Taharah – The Last Act of Kindness – Image List
Alotta – 1
The artist book wrapped in a piece of white burial cloth (sovev)is stored in a protective pine box and a “stone of remembrance” is affixed to the lid. The title of the book etch on copper, a material that is symbolic of judgment in Judaism.
Alotta – 2
Overall view of structure which opens from right to left. Lifting the thick wooden cover from right to left, the ritual is wrapped in between a white sovev (burial cloth). It is untied to reveal three phases: Yetziat Neshamah (departure of soul), Taharah (ritual washing) and Hashvah (final dressing) through a narrative of illustrations, Hebrew calligraphy and selected prayers.
The initial pages of dense gray cover board transform into the final layer of translucent white tissue and the completion of the ritual is punctuated with an ellipsis bored through the wooden back cover marking a divide of the transition from death on to life.
Alotta – 3
Detail of first spread in the first section Yetziat Neshamah (departure of soul). The end sheet and the tie are portions of the actual tachrichim (burial shrouds). The Hebrew text, that reads from right to left is the final prayer of confession before departure – Viduy.
“Our God and God of our fathers, may our prayers come before You and do not turn away from our supplications, for we are not so impudent and obdurate as to declare before You, Lord our God of our fathers, that we are righteous and have not sinned, we and our fathers have sinned.”
Alotta – 4
Detail of eighth spread of the book found in the second section Taharah (ritual washing). The illustration is a blue ink wash on Canson Mi-Teintes depicting the members of Chevra Kadisha who are dressed in gowns and wear gloves, to not contaminate the body, prepare the meitah (body of a female)for the final washing. Taharah is normally performed in the late hours of the day. The text is a portion of Anah Hashem recited by each member of the group.
“May it be your will, Lord our God, to strengthen us to do our work in cleansing the dead. Guard us from all injury and harm so that we not fail in our endeavor.”
Alotta – 4
Installation. The aron (casket) shaped binding is a part of a deconstructed environment filled with hidden symbolism of physicality and spirituality. A soft, blue, multi-layered linen veil casts a hovering shadow of the neshamah (soul) over a slab of Jerusalem stone supports the book. At the foot of the stone is a small drain symbolic of where final impurities are washed away and at the head of the stone is a small recess filled with water, the symbol of life that reflects the light and the source from where it originates.

 

Sylvia Ramos Alotta
Berwyn, Illinois
www.studioalotta.com

Taharah – The Last Act of Kindness
2016
Modified drummed leaf binding, hand-lettering, ink washes and illustrations. Installation: Gesso tinted linen hanging, hypertufa Jersusalem stone and cedar
One-of-a-kind
32
5.125 x 23 x 1.375
Installation 42 x 42 x 12. Book closed 5.125 x 11.5 x 1.375

SYLVIA RAMOS ALOTTA
ARTIST STATEMENT
Taharah – The Last Act of Kindness is a reflection of the ritual preparation for burial practiced by the Jewish people and performed by a society called Chevra Kadisha for many centuries. The inspiration began from the combination of having had performed taharah (ritual cleansing) as a member and the recent passing of my grandmother.
Lifting the thick pine cover from right to left, the ritual is wrapped within a white sovev (burial cloth). It is untied to reveal three phases: Yetziat Neshamah (departure of soul), Taharah (ritual washing) and Hashvah (final dressing) through a narrative of illustrations, Hebrew calligraphy and selected prayers. The initial pages of dense gray cover board transform into the final layer of translucent white tissue and the completion of the ritual is punctuated with an ellipsis bored through the wooden back cover marking a divide of the transition from death on to life.
The aron (casket) shaped binding is a part of a deconstructed environment filled with hidden symbolism of physicality and spirituality. A soft, blue, multi-layered linen veil casts a hovering shadow of the neshamah (soul) over a slab of Jerusalem stone that supports the book. At the foot of the stone is a small drain symbolic of where final impurities are washed away and at the head of the stone is a small recess filled with water, the symbol of life that reflects the light and the source from where it originates.
This one-of-a- kind piece was showcased at the 2016 exhibit “Voices of Wisdom” for the inaugural cohort of the Midwest Jewish Artist Lab at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning and Leadership and which was sponsored by the Covenant Foundation.
Sylvia Ramos Alotta, an industrial designer and hand bookbinder, holds a BFA in Industrial Design from the Cleveland Institute of Art, and MFA in Book Arts and Paper from Columbia College Chicago. From concept to production, her body of work reflects a diversity of achievements as a former Automotive Designer for the General Motors Corporation in Detroit and as proprietor of DesignAlotta. The book has become her artistic form of expression since 1995, after receiving a U.S. Design Patent for UNDERAPS, a unique journal system. The author of “The Exquisite Notes,” An Artist’s Sketchbook on Bookbinding, her work can be found in publications, and private and public collections. She has served on the Executive Board for the Guild of BookWorkers, exhibited internationally, and taught at Columbia College Chicago, Morgan Conservatory, Paper Book Intensive and Southwest School of Arts and Crafts. Sylvia resides in Berwyn, Illinois where she works and teaches from her home studio.