Artist Claude Riedel will speak about his craft and Jewish mysticism, at the Rimon Artist Salon on March 25
By ERIN ELLIOTT BRYAN / Community News Editor
Acclaimed glass artist Claude Riedel has been creating sculpture and stained glass windows for more than 30 years. He first created a ner tamid (Eternal Light), the Jewish ceremonial lamp found in every synagogue, for Bet Shalom Congregation more than 15 years ago — a “divine invitation,” he says, which led to the creation of nerot tamid for Shir Tikvah and the Minneapolis Community Kollel.
“Out of that experience, I discovered that creating [nerot tamid] was the most satisfying use of my artistic passions that I could imagine,” Riedel told the AJW. “Now I have devoted all of my art energy to just that.”
And for Riedel, his artistic process proved to be extremely personal. His grandfather was taken away to Buchenwald on Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass in Germany), in 1938, and there is no more powerful symbol for Riedel than the Eternal Light.
“I’m inspired to put the shards of glass back together in new and meaningful ways,” he said.
The Rimon Artist Salon Series will present “Gathering the Mystic Light: The Art of Blowing Glass,” featuring Riedel, 1 p.m. Sunday, March 25 at Foci Minnesota Center for Glass Arts in Minneapolis.
Riedel will speak with artist and educator Aribert Munzner about Jewish mysticism and the art of sculpting glass, metal and light, and the salon will include a live glassblowing demonstration.
Rimon: The Minnesota Jewish Arts Council is an initiative of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation. The salon is co-sponsored by Bet Shalom Congregation and Shir Tikvah.
In recent years, Riedel has developed an artistic practice based in Kabbalistic concepts of the universe as vessels of light.
“My energy, or part of my own life direction, is to strive to make bits and pieces of myself — of the person as well as of the artistic endeavors — and make them into something whole that is more than the pieces themselves,” Riedel said. “I view this as the most profound meaning of tikkun olam [repairing the world]; to take the energy, the light and, speaking in that Kabbalistic kind of way, the energy, or the shards of light, and return them to a whole, which is what tikkun olam does.”
Professionally, Riedel is a psychologist who works with children and families, primarily those struggling with attachment issues, “which draws from the same desire to help families and individuals bring their many parts into a stable and resilient whole.”
Riedel has been commissioned to create more than 60 installations that are displayed around the world — in every region of the United States, and Canada and Israel. Each piece is unique and handmade, and takes an average of three months to complete.
Riedel collaborates with other artists and craftsmen on his nerot tamid, including glassblower Michael Boyd, someone who cuts the hand-designed chain and someone who casts the bronze for the base.
“I find glass to be extremely evocative and pleasing, in terms of holding, in terms of reflecting light. And my pieces always have a base that’s meant to ground or hold the light in a way that’s soothing and comforting,” Riedel said. “The point that I often make is that these aren’t lights, in the sense of they’re lighting down, lighting onto something. My vision of what I’m trying to create is a form that holds the light of God in a way that feels grounded and comforting and secure.”
And Riedel just seems to know when he has achieved that vision.
“If I feel like I can sit in front of a ner tamid that I’ve created, and sit in front of it in a sanctuary, and feel the presence of the Eternal, then I’ve been successful,” he said. “So if I have that experience, I trust that others will, too.”
The Rimon Artist Salon Series will present “Gathering the Mystic Light: The Art of Blowing Glass” 1 p.m. Sunday, March 25 at Foci Minnesota Center for Glass Arts, 2010 E. Hennepin Ave., Building #10, Minneapolis.
Tickets are $10, or $5 for youth younger than 18. For tickets and information, contact the Rimon office at 952-381-3449 or: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit: www.rimonmn.org.
For information on Riedel’s work, visit: www.clauderiedelart.com.
(American Jewish World, 3.16.12)