Personal Mythologies

Harriette Joffe

Myth, legend, and ancient lore reach out and invite me into a world rich with infinite possibility. World music is the magic carpet to my creative process, evoking color, images, and stories without end. All that I am, all that I have experienced becomes my art.

Each time that I enter the studio I am open to thoughts and images touching me from a higher source, a distant place. Music, color, and line become dialogue—paintings unfold. “Our hands know how to settle the riddle which our intellects struggle with in vain.” Rumi

In 2005, I had the opportunity of being a part of the world of physics. Because of a set of synchronistic circumstances that included my background in health care and research, I was invited to work for 90-year-old physicist Dr. Keith Boyer. Eventually, I became his biographer, conveying research between Dr. Boyer and Dr. Charles Kirkham Rhodes, Physics Department, University of Illinois at Chicago. As an intermediary and witness to ideas relating to physics, and its applications to enhance medicine, cosmology, mathematics etc., I became deeply aware of and drawn to the intimate relationship between ancient myth and scientific phenomena.

The paradox between Creation and birth and Death and destruction are sometimes revealed in the study of Torah and demonstrated in the sacred literature of most ancient traditions. Leroy Little Bear, a Navajo Elder, has said, “We have reached the limits of our language. Therefore, to exclude anything (i.e., physics, mathematics, biology. or ecology) as separate from visual arts or dance is an inconceivable notion.” Recently in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the conceptual and multi-faceted composer, Tan Dun, premiered Ghost Opera…, “a cross-temporal, cross-cultural, and cross-media dialogue touching on past, present, future, and the eternal,” based on Chinese Shamanistic tradition.

Ancient creation myths parallel scientific reasoning sparking one’s imagination. Through a series of departures and returns, artists and scientists have had to explore new perspectives that have led them to discovery, revelation, and transformations never imagined possible.

My art speaks of an extended human condition extracting an essence and universality out of human events, recasting everyday life to create a new myth. I believe that magic happens when we let spirit guide us. Like the Latin American poet, Jorge Luis Borges, I see a universe in every grain of sand, in every star.

Harriette Joffe, MFA, MA

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