Jewish themes fly high in Marin exhibit

The first place YoHana Bat Adam thought to hang her artwork at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center was not the wall. It was the ceiling.

Considering Bat Adam, 56, launched her art career as a kite maker, it’s no surprise she wanted to see her work fly.

“Rising in Unity”

The pieces, which include chuppahs, silk and canvas paintings — some of them glowing with 23-karat gold leaf and sparkling paint — share the gauzy pastel colors and sweeping sky-borne elements typical of her work. In this exhibition, they include Hebrew calligraphy and biblical themes, from Jacob’s Ladder to Adam and Eve.

The 35 pieces will hang in the gallery, lounge and lobby of the San Rafael institution now through May. And yes, several are suspended from the ceiling.

Those Jewish themes run deep for the Polish-born Israeli artist. “The Bible is a code for inner growth,” she says, “and that’s what I’m doing. For me Judaism is a certain energy, of being united with something higher.”

Impressive as the work may be, painting is only the latest artistic endeavor for Bat Adam, who currently lives in Nevada City, Calif. In previous artistic incarnations, she has been a sculptor, an aerial designer and a theatrical set designer. That was all after she mastered the flute, which she still plays with orchestras and chamber ensembles.

“Jacob’s Ladder/Alef”

Further widening her creativity net, Bat Adam has studied Kabbalah, nonviolent communication, healing and vipaassana meditation.

How does she do it all?

“It’s part of my blessing and sometimes the opposite,” Bat Adam says from her home in the Gold Country. “Mechanically I’m talented. What I try to concentrate on these days is to share with others tips for growing and being more united. This is the answer. If we can’t be united, everything will be doomed.”

Born in Poland, at a young age she moved with her family to Israel. She studied music and served in the army, married and had three children. But after a divorce, she looked to branch out from music.

“Adam and Eve/Happy is the Woman”

That’s when Bat Adam became intrigued by kites. She designed and built her own, entering them in kite festivals around the world. This led to designing aerial art made of metals. Eventually, she went soft, working with textiles and paints, including a series of glorious silk chuppahs (Jewish wedding canopies).

In 2008, Bat Adam came to California to pursue her music career. She still makes much of her living playing music, but her painting career has taken off.

She says there is some overlap for her between art and music — and pretty much everything else as well.

YoHana Bat Adam

“I try to do everything with presence,” she says, “which means using creative energy to be in the moment. Whether cooking or sweeping the floor or making music, it’s not what I do but how I do it.”

Though she has explored Eastern religions and yoga, these days, Bat Adam says, “I’ve never been more Jewish in my life. I was not connected to any Jewish threads [growing up] even though the whole of Israel is Jewish. Only when I left Israel did I realized how my essence is connected to Jewish symbolism, language and the letters.“

Bat Adam isn’t sure where her wandering muse will take her next, but “the aim is to develop the skill of being in the moment,” she says, “and doing things as intentionally as possible.”

“Paintings and Textiles” by YoHana Bat Adam is on display through May at the Osher Marin JCC,  200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael. www.marinjcc.org/yohana

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is J.'s news editor. He can be reached at dan@jweekly.com.