Neve Shalom Gallery

Tree of Life

Digital Photography by Jeff Hirsch – Music by James Stone Goodman

I know now: Begin at the center.

I popped out of the diagram
as we were finishing the prayers
just in time to speak
a prayer of healing,
first the healing of the spirit
then the healing of the body,
the prayer-words of adjustment
from all the brokenness
inner and outer
that I experience
every day of my life.

James Stone Goodman
St. Louis

From the artist:

It's really all about the one.
(And the zero too)

"We all sit around in a circle and suppose, while the secret sits in the center and knows."
      --Robert Frost

The creation myth of almost every culture on our planet begins with all of existence as a singularity. The one. It is from this singular place that we emanate. It is also toward this same oneness that we are inexorably drawn as we evolve spiritually and emotionally. The beginning of the realized world as we come to know it happens when "the one" is split in two by a cosmic or divine force. Day and night. Sun and moon. Sand and sky. Yin and yang. All of existence springs forth and is then spread out between the two extremes of all and nothing. The alpha and the omega encompass all.

So too is it with these photographs. Every single hue, shade, and detail in these images is comprised of nothing more than ones or zeros. Yin and yang. Light and dark. Being and nothingness. Everything you see is a union of one and zero and the vast world that lies between them

As we move toward unity, toward the one, the divisions are breaking down between peoples, cultures, and even genders. A global hybridization is taking place that brings foreign culture and practices to all corners of the planet. It is no more evident than right here in America, the prototypical melting-pot. When I was a child, going out for ethnic food meant three choices: Chinese, Italian, or Mexican. Today, it is common (even in smaller cities) to find Indian, Thai, Viet Namese, Ethiopian, and a myriad of other exotic tastes. International foodstuffs, previously relegated to specialty stores in ethnic neighborhoods have begun to appear in local white-bread grocery store chains. (Yes, even Schnucks!) Tomato catsup has been surpassed by hot salsa as the most popular condiment in America as more and more remote cultures find a place within the ones that were previously so dominant.

The same evolution can also be seen in recorded music as world beats and melodies are being blended with traditional popular forms by artists like Peter Gabriel, David Byrne, and Paul Simon. They tap into a deep language of music that is part of us all.

I see this larger unifying process as an integration and not an assimilation. Removing the divisions brings us closer to each other and closer to the one.

In the realm of digital arts, the divisions are breaking down even more rapidly.

The lines between painting, photography, and photo-manipulation are blurring. And that's not always a bad thing. As the boundaries dissolve and the tools for expression expand, the artist is given more methods and techniques to penetrate all-the-way-in to a vision of the deep truth of "the one" hidden at the center.

That underlying, often obscured vision of truth is what I am attempting to glimpse and unmask with this series of photographs. For me there is no more potent symbol than the tree to represent the macrocosm of the world and the microcosm of person. On a macrocosmic level, the tree as world is as old as recorded mythos and appears in almost every single creation story in one form or another. On a microcosmic level, the tree becomes person-roots sunk deep into the firmament, branches stretching up to the heavens. What the tree has become for me is something akin to Spirit on a global and local level. I feel fortunate to be creating art in a time when the tools are evolving and expanding so rapidly. Working with photographs in the digital realm allows me to evolve a deeper, truer image than what I see with my eyes alone. It is an image that touches the primal archetype of "tree" that we carry within our species memory. These archetypal images speak to all races, all cultures, all peoples and transcend their particular cultural representations to reach a greater singular truth. The digital medium allows me to extend what my outer "physical" eye sees and have it meet up with and inform what my inner vision perceives. The result is a collection images that almost seem to come right out of the land of dreams and into the light of day. The images are immediately accessible at a direct level to viewers because they bypass cultural bias and go directly to the deep structures of our consciousness where they can interact in a fundamental symbolic fashion.

In this way we begin to break down the ultimate boundry between interior selves and our exterior world. These images offer a window of transparency in the thin curtain that separates the worlds; an opening through which we can look beyond phenomena of the many and on to the numema of the one.

--Jeff Hirsch
September 2002