Max Miller: Final Mourner's Kaddish 333 Days in Painting

Jewish Museum of Florida. Through May 13, 2012.

After the death of his father, Murray A. Miller, artist Max Miller chose to undertake the custom of saying Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning. This prayer, exalting the name of God, is recited in the presence of a congregation daily for eleven months.

Miller, who grew up Orthodox with Yiddish as his first language said, “The Kaddish provided me with time to grieve and reflect on spiritual aspects of life and death, and because of this I felt compelled to create images that captured my response to what I was experiencing.”

The artist’s grief provided the inspiration for a vivid, moving and cathartic account of his experience of honoring his father through the daily recitation of the Kaddish.

As an historic record and for personal reasons, Miller created a watercolor of each the synagogues he visited during the 333 days of saying Kaddish in New York, Vermont, Ohio and Florida (including Congregation Beth Jacob that is now JMOF).

The 50 vibrant watercolors, considered by the artist to be a coherent unit, are painted on paper. As a whole, the collection suggests the diversity of the social and religious settings that Miller frequented, as well as the breadth of personal transformation and learning he experienced over the course of those eleven months.

Though the form varies, humanity’s expression of mourning transcends time, society, and culture. The extraordinary body of work that ensued is an intimate document of Miller’s faith, observance and the Jewish community. The ultimate unity of the Jewish people is found in these remarkable works.

Each image is distinct in its orientation, composition and focus. Depictions range from exterior to interior, from human to architectural portraits, from limited to wide-ranging color schemes. The richness of his color and line inscribes the vitality of faith and continuance of ritual and tradition. The exhibition also includes a stunning portrait of Miller’s father, against a silver leaf background, an image of iconic and descriptive power that sets the tone for the show.

Accompanying the images are the artist’s commentaries, based on his thoughts, feelings and experiences with those he met during this pursuit. While honoring the Jewish tradition of memorializing a parent, Miller came to learn a great deal about his father and their shared heritage.

Though the daily ritual of saying Kaddish has formally ended for Miller, bringing this project to fruition provides an opportunity for those within the Jewish community, and for those in other communities, of all ages, to witness and honor the tradition of the Mourner’s Kaddish, and to reflect on their own humanity and spiritual journeys.

This exhibition by Max Miller originated at the Yeshiva University Museum in New York City and is sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts. 

Max Miller is known for his abstract paintings that embrace color and line, as well as his figurative paintings of human and animal subjects. He has had exhibitions in New York City and throughout the East Coast. He received his BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and MFA from Yale University. He has been awarded numerous fellowships, including a New York Foundation for the Arts, Guggenheim, National Endowment for the Arts and two Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grants.

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