Her Mikvah, Kedushat Yetzirah      


Bearing Witness: The Voices of Our Survivors
The "Mikvah" series

- Her Mikvah, Kedushat Yetzirah (Updated version, Powerpoint)
- Her Mikvah, Kedushat Yetzirah (Holiness of Creation)
- Transformation
- Leaving Childhood

Women of the Wall
The Fence
These are some Jews that Hitler Did Not Get
Conversations with Dad
Mother Daughter 2003
Mother Daughter 2004
Mother Daugter 2005
Mother Daughter 2006





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Dena Elisabeth Eber


Her Mikvah, Kedushat Yetzirah (Holiness of Creation)


This series is an embodiment of both awe and wonderment as it makes reference to the roughly 3500-year-old religious ritual of the mikveh (Jewish ritual bath). I am representing the wonderment and transformative powers of the practice using a feminist and halachically (Jewish law) grounded frame of reference. These works address the reclamation of the ritual so that it reflects kavannah, or meaning and intention for those who perform it today. The work respects the roots of the tradition, yet expands the margins that are not fixed so that the ritual takes on modern significance. Although there is already a renewed interest in expanding the mitzvah of the orthodox custom, my contribution is to give voice to the matriarchs in the scriptures who did not have a voice and through them, speak directly to the contemporary assimilated or semi assimilated Jewish woman. I am doing this by creating a visual narrative that represents fictitious stories of our matriarchs and the archetypical assimilated Jewish woman so that the kavannah they display is representative of the ancient uses they might have chosen, thus impacting the use for today. I believe the potential for the ritual reflects spiritual transformation beyond words. By showing individual customs, my research expands and reclaims the part of the mikveh tradition that is specific for married menstruating women by challenging older notions of niddah (a woman's separation period during and just after menstruation) when women were considered tumah (spiritually unclean). In my work I celebrate health and wholeness for all women, including those who are single, lesbian or postmenopausal.  


The title of this body of work, Kedushat Yetzirah or Holiness of Creation (Grossman), also translated as Sanctity of Creation, replaces the term Tohorat HaMishpahah or Family Purity, thus contemporizing the mikveh ritual and emphasizing the affirmative facets of femininity. Rabbi Susan Grossman suggested the new term in her teshuvot (responsa or a body of rabbinic rulings) to encourage mikveh practice for all women so that they may celebrate their womanhood through the mikveh ritual. These positive dimensions are what my images highlight. In my work, the mikveh celebrates the beauty of femininity and the freedom for all women to be spiritually transformed and always tehorah (spiritually pure).


Each image is made up of three or more digital photographs that I merge, paint and collage on the computer. I use a number of techniques, including a modified version of high dynamic range photography (HDR) in which I merge many photographs with different exposure settings, but also with different content. I further correct exposure by hand and add parts of different photographs, in some cases so it appears like a collage and in other cases so it seems as if the content was there when it was shot. I finish off many of the works by using digital paint tools to add texture, color or to give a different feeling to the picture. The images are printed using special archival watercolor paper and inks on high-end printers with custom profiles.


Powerpoint Portfolio (images and narrative only): FireFox and Chrome

Powerpoint Portfolio with background and definitions: FireFox and Chrome

© copyright 2001-2013  
All rights reserved by [ Dena Elisabeth Eber ]