Avad : Work and Worship, Redeemer University Art Gallery, 2021
Avad is the verb form of the noun Avodah. From the root of the Hebrew word to serve a-v-d, Avad appears in scripture in various forms but includes both notions of work and worship. Work is an operation. It is a process with a suspected outcome, may it be income, recognition, or personal gain. However, worship is a posture. A movement of the soul advancing the body and mind spiritually. Both words are action words. These activities are both completed through a response and a reaction.
The verb form of a-v-d, Avad has over ten meanings. All based on the root of “to serve”, both verbs “to work” and “to worship” are to be found under the definition. Because Avad is somewhat of an umbrella term that can be applied to a multitude of ways to worship, this creates a space where actions translate to service. Every action is an expression of personal duty, ultimately to the spirituality of the individual engaging in the action.
In the passage from Exodus 10-13, the 10 plagues of Egypt take place and Moses is making negotiations regarding the future of the Israelites' servanthood. This parashah uses the root word a-v-d, 21 times in a range of ways. The range includes the discussion of a Passover sacrifice, the moving of the Israelites to freedom where they are able to serve God, and the denouncing of slavery.
An artist has a unique position, through their own expression, they can move others. There is a combination of work and worship visible in the service of an artist. Within the motion of Avad, an artist can work their craft while articulating a specific call of worship. Upon sharing, a viewer can be equally moved to worship through the content.
In the context of this exhibition, audiences have an opportunity to view Avad from a variety of religions and spiritualities. Each artist in the show comes from their own unique personal experience and is showing at least two spiritual traditions through their work. Though initially, Avad is a Hebrew word based in Jewish practices, the concept can be applied to all expressions of service, and connected to any individual’s perception of their personal spirituality and/ or recognised religion.
Individually, an artist has the privilege of expressing themselves and additionally taking creative inspiration from the world around them. In this exhibition work and worship are prevalent in the spiritually driven pieces that are shown, but also in the artist’s experience of creating them and the viewer’s experience of absorbing them. This exhibition brings together the work of Nicole Little, Diane Bigelow, and Janet Horne Cozens, three individuals who use their art as a form of exploration and spiritual practice.
Nicole Little is a mixed media artist, based in Toronto, Ontario. Her work focuses on revealing the value of discarded objects and people. Passionate about the fundamental importance of arts education, Little believes that “Art should not be a luxury. It is a right,”.
Seven of Little’s works in the show, Agnie, Anahit, Asase Yea, Osiris, Priestess of Dhat Badan, Sedna, and Taloc, are a part of an ongoing series titled Other People’s Deities. The series is so far compiled of mixed media portraits and sculpture. Little created the series not to explore her own religion or spirituality, but rather to better understand and empathize with her neighbours, spiritually and otherwise.
This ongoing series includes representation of both living gods and goddesses, as well as a few that are no longer worshiped, and some that are now known but only worshipped by a few neopagans. Outside of the Judeo-Christian world, these gods and goddesses are widely known, but in the Western World may be transcended by the seven major world religions, especially Christianity.
The final piece of Little’s that is included in the exhibition is Khachkar. This was created as a holiday card by Little and shows a detailed Armenian cross on the front. This reflects Little’s Armenian heritage and was created for a close family friend, however Little has made more since. In the process of making this, Little based the image off of historic Armenian crosses and the frame surrounding the cross is based on a Medieval picture frame from France.
In the country of Armenia, religious connection runs deep with the status of the national church -the Armenian Apostolic Church. In the creation of this series of cards, Little not only was able to express her own Armenian cultural roots, but additionally share this spiritual symbol of the Apostolic cross with the receiver of the card.
Nicole Little, Work list included in Avad: Work and Worship 2021
Tlaloc, Mixed Media, 6” X 6”, 2020
Priestess of Dhat Badan, Mixed Media, 6” X 7”, 2020
Osiris, Mixed Media, 6” X 6”, 2020
Anahit, Mixed Media, 6” X 6”, 2020
Agni, Mixed Media, 6” X 6”, 2020
Sedna, Mixed Media, 6” X 11”, 2020
Asase Yaa, Mixed Media Sculpture, 38” X 15” X 8”, 2020
Khachkar, Mixed Media, 5” X 7”, 2020
Dianne Bigelow is a mixed media artist, based in Windsor, Ontario. Her main drives are creation, expression, research and communication. Her art relies on the imagination of the viewer, perceptive memories, and recognition. Working in both traditional and mixed media, Bigelow works to express the human spirit frequently morphed through time with ancestral, biblical/spiritual, animal, and nature symbols as common features.
Bigelow shared that her creative process depends on thought, context, skill, and logic. She works intentionally through dating her work with the notion that certitude or a solution will call to see if it is worthy or how it fits in with research and experience. In her work, the development of ideology and technique are closely associated.
Dianne Bigelow, Work list included in Avad: Work and Worship 2021
Adam Names Raven, Watercolour, 30 ¼” X 44”, n.d.
Adam Names Equus, Watercolour, 22” X 44”, n.d.
John the Baptist who Foresees Christ (Dove), Watercolour, 9” X 7”, n.d.
Apostle, Watercolour, 9” X 7”, n.d.
Consecration, Stone drawn Lithograph, edition #8 of #14, 17 ½” X 13”, n.d.
Aristophanes… Even for a Moment These Two Are One, Collage with Watercolour and silver foil, 45 ¼” X 34 ¼”, n.d.
Angel of Forgetfulness, Stone Lithograph and ink, edition #1 of #10, 21 ½” X 18 ½”, n.d.
Janet Horne Cozens
Janet Horne Cozens lives and works in Burlington, Ontario. Her mixed media artwork is evolving on a daily basis through exploration of medium and technique. Though her work tends to be more abstract, there often seems to be a representational element to her pieces. Horne Cozens draws on nature, her Japanese heritage, and a strong connection to her spirituality.
Four of Horne Cozens’ pieces in the exhibition, Nirodha, Samayuda, Magga, and Dukkha, have recourse to the Four Noble Truths found in Buddhism. These Four Noble Truths exist in interning with each other and are imperative to understand for practicing Buddhists as they are the paths to ill-being as well as well-being. On her website, Horne Cozens shares that these pieces “represent the internal feeling that I experience as I consider these teachings of Buddha.”
By creating these pieces as a representation of her own experience in spirituality, not only is Horne Cozens exploring her own devoutness, but additionally is encountering avad. Through her work to create these pieces, she practices a form of worship and meditation.
Additionally, Horne Cozens has a fifth piece in the exhibition, Madonna. This piece was one of her first mixed media portraits and is inspired by the faces of Japanese Dolls.
Janet Horne Cozens, Work list included in Avad: Work and Worship 2021
Nirodha, The End of Suffering, Monoprint and Collage, 16” X 20”, 2018
Samayuda, The Cause of Suffering, Monoprint and Collage, 16” X 20”, 2018
Magga, The Path to the End of Suffering, Monoprint and Collage, 16” X 20”, 2018
Dukkha, The Existence of Suffering, Monoprint and Collage, 16” X 20”, 2018
Madonna, Mixed Media, 12” X 12” X 2”, 2017
In conclusion, Avad: Work and Worship 2021, an immersive online exhibition that gives audiences an opportunity to look into the spiritual practices of the three artists shown, as well as the portrayal of additional spiritualities through the eyes of the artists.
This exhibition allows space for creators to practise and viewers to see practical worship through art. At the core of creation and expression, truth is found. This truth, a remark of devotion to self and spirituality.