One restless morning in her studio, Hyla Bolsta painted a picture of two figures and immediately knew they were she and a dear friend of forty-three years who was extremely ill. By the time Bolsta arrived at her friend’s house with the picture, she learned that her friend had died just as Bolsta had finished the painting.
Her friend hovered over Bolsta as she worked on a series of paintings that memorialized their relationship. Reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish propelled her deeper into the prayer, and she began studying the words and phrases with a rabbi to explore their broader meanings and possibilities. The result is Bolsta’s calligraphed Mourner’s Kaddish, with a painting and derash for the individual words and phrases of the prayer. The book then expands into interpretive paintings and closes with a fine selection of quotations from several sources, accompanied by Boltsa’s illustrations.
The Illuminated Kaddish charts Bolsta’s personal and spiritual quest. In her interpretations, both visual and verbal, Bolsta strives to capture the life-affirming solace of the Mourner’s Kaddish and its powerful message to her of the grandeur of creation. Glossary, notes.
Maron L. Waxman, retired editorial director, special projects, at the American Museum of Natural History, was also an editorial director at HarperCollins and Book-of-the-Month Club.