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The Zodiac Series I
Judith Weinshall Liberman
Return to the Zodiac Series I Gallery

My ZODIAC SERIES I was inspired by the wheel of the zodiac as represented in a 6th century synagogue mosaic floor excavated in Beit Alpha, Israel. I came across the image of that mosaic pavement on the internet recently, while researching old Jewish mosaic floors in conjunction with a mixed media series I was creating on ancient Jewish symbols. But although I had seen images of the Beit Alpha zodiac floor before, this time it captured my imagination and spurred me on to express the signs of the zodiac as part of my Judaica series.

I have never been interested in astrology – my knowledge of it being pretty well confined to the awareness that I myself am a Pisces – so I have asked myself what it was about the Beit Alpha zodiac floor that captured my imagination. Was it the statement I read on one of the internet sites that the floor was excavated in 1929, the year of my birth, which first piqued my interest and made me feel an emotional connection to it? Or was it the fact that the floor was made of mosaics, a medium I have long loved and used in my art, that made me drawn to it? Or was it my recent realization, through conversations with an Israeli friend who has become an orthodox Jew, that the signs of the zodiac are an integral part of the Jewish tradition that made me realize that artworks about them could therefore be included among my Judaica works?

I can't be sure what drew me to the zodiac signs in 2008. But I rather suspect that it was mainly that I was moved, at this late stage of my life, by the beautiful, folk-art nature of the images representing the different signs of the zodiac in the Beit Alpha floor. Once I decided to create a series about these signs, I was aware that each of them loomed so large in my mind that I would devote a separate work to that sign. Yet I wanted all twelve works to be harmonious so that together they would constitute a single unit, the way the Beit Alpha floor itself did.

To maintain the integrity and interconnectedness of the series, I had to solve several challenging problems: First of all, some of the images in the Beit Alpha floor itself were damaged and had to be recreated in conformity with what was presumably there in the original floor. Next, I had to decide how to stay faithful to the original images and yet convey that each of them was part of a mosaic floor. Then, how do I indicate what season of the year each sign represents and yet keep the series cohesive? And, finally, how do I list and organize the series for display purposes?

My solution to these problems is evident in this collection. To ensure awareness that the images were derived from a mosaic floor, I decided to use a pattern of mosaics in the background of each sign, taking pains, however, to create a harmony between the colors and shapes in the background and those in the original zodiacal image. Having picked a symbolic color for each season – green for spring, yellow for summer, red for fall and blue for winter – I rendered some of the mosaic shapes in the background of each sign in the appropriate seasonal color. I found out that it is traditional to begin a listing of the signs with Taleh (Aries) because it represents the first month of spring, and to organize the signs, if they are presented for display in circular formation, with the spring signs to the east. Using mixed media - combining printing, collage and acrylic painting - was helpful in accomplishing all this.