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Bed Life Paintings by Rabbi Elliot Kukla
Please see this article featured in the J about Rabbi Elliot Kukla’s upcoming Kehilla show and join us at the reception this Sunday from 4:00 to 6:00 in Kehilla’s Fireside Gallery.
In 2013 I became seriously ill with a neurological Lupus flare, for the next three years I lived mostly in bed and often was unable to form words. In that time the visual world came alive for me as did the world of the bedroom. I found myself painting more than I had since childhood exploring the inner life of illness, dreamtime, disability, and a shifting sense of self. Some of these paintings explore hospitalizations and the dehumanization that we face as chronically ill people in the current health care system. My paintings from 2013-2015 from when I was largely housebound explore my own bed life.
These paintings shift in 2016, when I began to be able to leave the house and return to my work. I work as a rabbi visiting people living with serious illness and at the end of life and co-directing a spiritual care volunteer hospice program. At this point I was able to connect to the Disability Justice community and give context and political meaning to my experience. My paintings from 2016-17 are of dreams of the natural world and the bedrooms of other disabled people, both living and dead. As sick and disabled people we spend so much time in our bedrooms and I see these rooms as sacred altars of our survival. My paintings of bedrooms are dreamlike and heightened in color and intensity to express my vision of them as sacred places where we live, rest, and dream.
I will be selling limited edition giclée prints of my painting of Sylvia Rivera’s bedroom as a fundraiser for Sins Invalid, a people of color led Disability Justice political education and performance project. http://www.sinsinvalid.org/
I have been a Kehilla member since 2012 and since 2007 I have served as a Rabbi at the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center in San Francisco, offering spiritual care to the ill, dying, and bereaved.