Divinity exists where there’s contradictions too complex for the mind to swallow whole. This month, New York-based interdisciplinary artist Alice Mizrachi invites viewers to sit with such daedal truths at ‘THE DIVINE MOMENT,’ her latest solo exhibition at WALLWORKS Gallery in the Bronx.
Mizrachi created these works throughout the famously volatile summer of 2020. “During the riots, protests and pandemic lockdown I knew I had to find a way to reconnect with self,” she states in the show’s press release. “In my stillness I was able to recalibrate, let go, and live in the divine moment. Attention to my studio practice, life, and gratitude became a daily ritual of healing the collective consciousness.”
‘THE DIVINE MOMENT’ elaborates on Mizrachi’s pre-existing practice, rooted in the subconscious mind. Rather than planning or parsing, she enters a meditative state and creates from the subconscious, each brushstroke springing from the moment at hand. Her latest endeavors radiate a new intensity, embodied by the eponymous, high contrast series of paintings titled ‘The Divine Moment #1-10.’
“From an early age, I was really obsessed with drawing without lifting my pen from the paper,” Mizrachi told me over FaceTime, a technique called blind contour drawing which much of this exhibition evokes. “I love the idea of being able to draw from a place of feeling as opposed to seeing. The line within my work is very recognizable as my work.”
Larger creations like ‘The Divine Mother’ and ‘The Divine Power to the People’ blend the artist’s talent for archetypal energy with collages of paper in patterns from her cultural heritage. Mixed media assemblages, sculptures, and ceramic masks complete the ensemble, allowing ‘THE DIVINE MOMENT’ to share the same message across multiple frequencies, multiple materials. For a series of work stemming from an incredibly difficult point in world history, they are sumptuous and heavy, but hopeful.
“You’ll often see within my work that the eyes are the strongest part of the image,” Mizrachi said. “I can bring you in with the gaze of the eye, even if it's a rough drawing or a line.” She came to understand the power of the eyes as a child, engaged in the familial language of facial expressions her stern father eloquently conversed in. “I hope to engage people, as they see the work with the eyes, to feel that conversation that I'm trying to share with them about the serenity, the spirit, the soul, wanting to elevate mankind.”
Growing up in Queens, the young Mizrachi enjoyed a happy childhood, but sometimes struggled to cope with her parents’ old-world values, their rigidity. Art became a respite, an excuse to shut the door and create a world of her own.
Mizrachi secretly applied to Parsons School of Design at the advice of her high school art teacher and was admitted with a generous scholarship. After moving out on her own, the artist’s spiritual path deepened. She knew she was of the Old Testament, but what about the New? She read the Quran and Buddhist texts and modern thinkers like Eckhart Tolle. She recognized wisdom she’d gained intuitively in her live thus far, but learned the value of applying spiritual teachings in an intentional way.
Devoting time to this firm foundation provided Mizrachi with the confidence necessary to create from a place of knowing. While making art, she strives to exist entirely in the present moment, awake and aware to receive. Those recognizable lines are like thoughts. When she puts one down and doesn’t like it, she simply paints over it. Longer lines are streams of consciousness with the capacity to elevate.
“It feels so empowering to be detached from the outcome and to allow spirit to flow through me, as opposed to me guiding spirit,” she mused. “I have to be grateful for the fact that I have a soul that knows exactly what I need.”
The pandemic provided Mizrachi with much appreciated space to stop moving. For the past ten years she’s been traveling for work, painting murals and practicing community outreach. While she acknowledges the difficulty and tragedy of the past year, she’s turned her eyes from the darkness to the light by seizing this opportunity to regroup.
“I was able to reconnect with myself in a way that I haven't been able to do in years,” Mizrachi intimated. “I was able to create a whole new body of work because I was uninterrupted.” The artworks throughout ‘THE DIVINE MOMENT’ are predominantly depictions of her family and friends and alter egos. “Some of them even channel my ancestors,” she added.
Mizrachi understands her responsibility as co-creator of her own reality. “I am choosing to write my own story with the experiences that I'm paying attention to,” she said. “Perpetuating things that don't serve our world won’t do anyone justice.” She understands that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness,” as Martin Luther King, Jr. once noted. “Only light can do that.”
“You want to be able to create and change the story,” she continued. “I'm unpacking difficult conversations constantly.” In 2012, Mizrachi completed a mural for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. She met with students to collaborate on the project the day after Trayvon Martin was murdered.
Following her faith, Mizrachi encouraged her students to turn their gaze from tragedy towards a happier, more equitable future. “Let's make a list of what we would like to see,” she instructed. “If we were to create our ideal society, what kind of images can we see? What conversations are we having in a utopian society?”
“When they make those lists, their eyes light up,” she stated. Based on this brainstorming, they collectively crafted the imagery that became Mizrachi’s public mural. "I want to perpetuate the conversation of goodness and wellness,” she told me. “I want to co-create in the space of love and positivity and healing and abundance and the opportunity for this world to continue to evolve in wonderful, wonderful spaces.”
“If we can collectively shift our mindset more towards the good and focus more on that light, we will be so much more evolved as a civilization,” she said.
Regarding ‘THE DIVINE MOMENT,’ an exercise in fine art, Mizrachi hopes viewers find inspiration in the beautiful creative output she managed to generate during this troubling time. It’s almost a tribute to the pandemic itself, a divine moment in its own strange right, a blip in history where an entrenched system accidentally shocked itself awake, achieving an awareness that remains remote when circumstances look more like the status quo. “When you leave the show,” she said, “I hope that you take away, ‘what am I doing with my greatest asset, which is time? What am I doing with my moments?’”