Award-winning local artist Lynn Rae Lowe will unveil a seven-panel “aluminations” series, “Let There Be Light,” at a one-day exhibit Saturday, Sept. 7 from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. at the Southern Arizona Arts Guild gallery in La Encantada before the work, commissioned by Temple Beth El in West Bloomfield, Michigan, is shipped to its new home.
Lowe developed the unique aluminations process, using aluminum canvases she saturates with color. How “Let There Be Light,” her largest aluminations yet, came to be is a tale of “challenge and faith through adversity and opportunity,” she says.
Lowe first connected with Beth El’s Rabbi Mark Miller in 2001, when his father-in-law, Tucsonan Mark Bauman, gave the new rabbi one of Lowe’s bronze sculptures as a graduation gift. Miller began collecting her work and often told her, “Someday, when I’m head rabbi, I will commission you for a major piece of art.”
But they lost touch until four years ago, when Lowe attended a family bat mitzvah at Beth El, where Miller was now head rabbi. Lowe had sung in the choir at Beth El as a teen, although in a different location, and recalled how she would contemplate the domed ceiling that depicted stories from the Torah. It was one of her first exposures to the creative realm that would become her life. Miller reminded her of his promise and “for the next few years we had meetings with the board, but nothing jelled until last October,” she says.
On the evening of the Yom Kippur break fast, Lowe was celebrating with a dear Tucson friend and the friend’s adult son, who had just been given the all clear after a year of treatment for prostate cancer. “At the moment I was sharing in the joy of her son being written in the Book of Life, my son Brad was in a car accident and sustained a traumatic brain injury,” she says.
Brad and his family live in Michigan, so Lowe headed there. Although Brad was in a coma and the prognosis was unclear, she was optimistic, especially since the accident had occurred so near the hospital that he was in the operating room within 10 minutes of impact.
Lowe went to see Miller at Beth El, explaining why she was in town. He took her around the synagogue, proposing a couple of sites for the long-promised commission, but they didn’t resonate, she says.
“Then we went into the Little Brown Chapel. There was a long wall where the choir was supposed to sit, but they no longer have a choir. Rabbi thought the 30-foot wall would be a great place for ‘something.’ I turned and said, “Seven panels of the Days of Creation.’ We both looked at each other and knew a promise he had made had just come to fruition at a time when coming to Michigan was the depth of sadness in my life.”
Each time she returned to Michigan to give her daughter-in-law a hand, she visited the synagogue “for spiritual refueling,” Lowe says.
Brad, she says, “has done amazingly well although this will be a life-altering accident. He will be written in the Book of Life for many years to come.”
Lowe will be in Michigan on Sept. 20, the anniversary of his injury, which she considers a “new birthday.”
The next day is Selichot, and her art installation will be unveiled. ”It is also the 20th anniversary of my husband’s passing. He was my muse and I was his. How awesome to have him so present at this pinnacle of my art career,” Lowe says.
Through these “unplanned and in many ways unwelcome events,” she says, “has come connection, opportunity and gratitude.”
Lowe hopes the children who come to the Little Brown Chapel each Friday, where the rabbi leads them in song on his guitar, will be inspired by her seven panels telling the story of creation, just as she was inspired by the old domed ceiling.
“It is the circle of life, or as we say in Hebrew, ‘l’dor v’dor,’” says Lowe.
The SAAG gallery is located at 2905 E. Skyline Drive, on level two. Along with “Let There Be Light,” a small retrospective of Lowe’s career will be displayed. A reception for the artist will be held Sept. 7 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.lynnraelowe.com.