Thursday, December 8, 2016

Traveling with Leonard Cohen

When I paint or draw, especially when I create a tallit for a client, I listen to Jews with Buddhist sensibilities-- Jack Kornfield, Krishna Das, Leonard Cohen, Ram Dass. They comfort and amuse me, a former religious studies major, as I imagine sitting at a table with these, my uniquely talented brothers. And I chuckle to think what our parents, may their memories be for a blessing, would say about the paths their Jewish kids have taken, all of us looking for that secret chord.
I Came So far  For Beauty, 30" x 40"silk painting by Beth Surdut


       The mysterious longing for beautiful places has guided my life. And Leonard Cohen has traveled with me more times than I realized until he died.
I purposely named this painting of a preserve in Hawaii after Cohen's poem-song I CAME SO FAR FOR BEAUTY. It hangs by my bed, allowing me to awaken to  beauty in the direst of times. I first hung it near me after 9/11 because I needed a place of sanctuary.

I came so far for beauty
I left so much behind/
My patience and my family
My masterpiece unsigned


I thought I'd be rewarded
For such a lonely choice
And surely she would answer
To such a very hopeless voice
I practiced all my sainthood
I gave to one and all
But the rumors of my virtue
They moved her not at all


~ Leonard Cohen (excerpt)

True for me, except all my pieces are signed.

Martyrs and Saints 
When an artist named Sylvia asked me to pose as Joan of Arc, I asked her if she knew Leonard Cohen's song by that name. She said yes, so I agreed.
Odd to see myself in armor in my 30s or any other time,  just as it was unsettling to see myself as Mary Magdalene when I posed for a Dutch artist in Israel when I was 17 years old.

Joan of Arc, drawing by Sylvia, model: Beth Surdut


Myself I long for love and light,
But must it come so cruel, and oh so bright? ~ from Joan of Arc by Leonard Cohen

Farewell, Leonard Cohen. Would that any of us leave such a legacy.

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