Tumbling Waters: A Work of Art

Liana Slomka3.30.21
When Marilyn Rose told me that her award-winning watercolor of the Ramah Darom waterfall was a “pandemic painting” and that she painted it from a photograph, I had to admit to her that I was stunned. When I first saw the painting called Tumbling Waters, I immediately recognized the waterfall in the mountains on the Ramah Darom campus, and I imagined her standing nearby, watching it flow as she painted.

In fact, Marilyn first painted at the waterfall about ten years ago, when she attended Ramah Darom’s Passover Retreat. She spent Chol Hamoed sketching people and places around campus, which she was able to show me over Zoom. I was thrilled to recognize the lake, the climbing tower, artwork, and people dancing on the Kikar, the grassy field in front of the Levine Center. After that week of sketching the natural beauty of Ramah Darom and the energy of the Retreat participants, Marilyn was invited to return the following Passover to teach art, which she then did from 2012 to 2018.

Passover at Ramah Darom was Marilyn’s first time teaching painting in a more casual setting. She found that there was not always as much time as she would hope, with all of the other activities and holiday rituals of the week. But, that made it even more meaningful to Marilyn when the people she taught genuinely connected with their art in that limited time and returned the next year eager to keep learning.

To Marilyn, art is all about connection, which is why she tells her students that it doesn’t matter what they paint. What matters is the experience that they have with the subject. “It’s like translations of Jewish texts,” she explained. Every translation is based on the same Hebrew words, but the translator’s voice and experience are evident and bring new meaning to the text. This is why, even though Marilyn based her painting on a photo of the waterfall, it is so much more than just a copy of that photo. “It’s nice to go back to places during this time and re-experience them,” she told me. “Painting a place has this quality of time and space travel. You hear the waterfall and get sprayed by the water. I feel lucky to be able to do that stuff.”

“Drawing, painting and creating is spiritual, like davening without words. When I paint, I often hear words from prayers in my head.”

Marilyn told me that Ramah Darom is a spiritual place in that it houses a special community. “It’s like carrying around the Mishkan. The place is beautiful.” But, when I asked her if she had a favorite spot, she could only speak about the people she met there.

Tumbling Waters, which can be seen (and purchased), along with Marilyn’s other work on marilynroseart.com, was recently awarded an honorable mention by the Northeast Watercolor Society. To Marilyn, this was also a chance to revisit both the physical place of the Ramah Darom waterfall and the person she had been when she first painted there.

“I wasn’t the same person when I painted it,” Marilyn said. Since she painted the waterfall live, ten years ago, she has grown as a person and as an artist. Despite creating Tumbling Waters with only a photo as reference, Marilyn created an experience that would connect a viewer to the waterfall’s natural beauty and to her own relationship with her art and her time at Ramah Darom.

The Ramah Darom waterfall is easily my favorite place on campus, if not the world. Even though this was my first time meeting with Marilyn, we found it easy to connect over our shared love of Ramah Darom. If I learned anything from our conversation, that is what art is meant to do.

-Liana Slomka, Ramah Service Corps Fellow