The Exhibit

Illuminated Letters

Illuminated Letters: Threads of Connection is a project conceived by Portland artist Sara Harwin. The work draws upon the ancient tradition of illuminated manuscripts and Sacred Geometry creating large panels and hanging mobiles. The imagery uses strong jolts of color, (sacred imagery), pattern and movement to achieve an innovative blend of visual and textual commentary on Jewish life and thought. Sara utilizes diverse techniques, including acrylic painting, paper cuts, mixed media, and fiber art.

This complete exhibition combines 24 six-foot museum gallery panels sewn and digitally printed. The panels are surrounded by English translations of ancient Hebrew with imagery of planets, trees, seasons, and geometric silk-covered three-dimensional floating particles meticulously assembled as elements based on sacred geometry. After decades of creative development, Sara Harwin’s exhibition is a means for viewers to understand and explore universal and individual concepts on and within, and around each panel. Sara Harwin has dedicated multiple decades as a student of ancient Hebrew, Kabballah and has studied along with nationally recognized Hebrew scholars, linguists, and other artists of note.

Virtual Tour of the Exhibit (2022)


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Shoresh Concept

Illuminated Letters: Threads of Connection uses an artistic lens to look at 18 core concepts of Judaism derived from the roots in this panel. The concepts (arranged in groups of three) are:

Concepts Concepts Concepts
Illuminate Wrestle Connect
Deeds Love Words
Courage Justice/Righteousness Truth
Wisdom Holiness Torah – The Teaching
Remember Slavery Holy Rest
Place Covenant Commandments
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The commentary phase of the project places images for each shoresh in a "Talmud-like" page, then frames it with contemporary teachings from Judaism's brightest teachers. Sara has invited renowned and respected scholars, authors and rabbis to contribute written commentary about each shoresh. The resultant contributions, which are still pouring in-- approach each shoresh from diverse perspectives- male and female, liberal, traditional and secular- providing a multi-faceted interpretation of each core concept.


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The video below showcase the intricate effort and thought put into the creation of Illuminated Letters. Join Sara Harwin as she explains the process and extensive detail put into the project.

Illuminated Letters : Threads of Connection.

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The primary technique implemented in Illuminated Letters extends my training and practice as a printmaker into the media of fabric and software. Appliqué and quilting—traditional contemporary ways of women expressing their creativity—have influenced this choice of medium.

I began the traditional way, by sketching out ideas. I then made patterns and stitched pieces together with the aid of a scanner. Finally, design software was employed to manipulate images and create the patterns used in the assembly process.

An immediate relationship with the ancient Hebrew text inspired the choice of images on the scroll. At the same time, scholars were invited to write commentary on these very same roots/shoreshim. The words provided by these scholars surround each image in a traditionally visual layout, as found in the Talmud and other Jewish sacred texts.

The celestial backdrop reminds the viewer of the stars and heavens that inspired Sarah and Abraham, my biblical ancestors, to seek the divine in the night sky. Illuminated Letters takes the same view as it seeks to bridge the universal and timeless, to connect the viewer with the Eternal.

The inclusion of the ancient, universal language of sacred geometry conveys the idea that the core concepts are multi-faceted. By naming these forms “elements” and “particles” and placing them within the heavens, the complete span moves from the smallest specks in the universe to the infinite expanse encompassing eternity.

Just as a path in life moves forward one step at a time, so too my work has moved forward—by the process of illuminating, wrestling, and connecting— ultimately to fabricate Illuminated Letters. One step at a time, but in so many directions at once.

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Illuminated Letters has received grants from several organizations, including:

Grants Grants
Regional Arts & Culture Council

Meyer Memorial Trust
Schnitzer Support Foundation of OJCF

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This project is in partnership with Reclaiming Judaism and Rabbi Goldie Milgram.

Visit Sara Harwin's page on Reclaiming Judaism

Rabbi Goldie Milgram, PJ Voice and Reclaiming Judaism, says of the Illuminated Letters Project that it is a "new Jewish art (that is) stunning in quality with themes that teach and touch the soul."

Hear Rabbi Milgram's interviews at:

You can also learn more by visiting:

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