top of page
  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

The Art of Thought, the Thought of Art

Updated: Feb 27, 2022

I have watched Lisa Fliegel's amazing art on Facebook for years now and was so excited that she agreed to write a brief piece on how she makes her artwork on Words Have Wings.

Lisa and I have met only a few times, but work we did together on photographing her dear father before Covid began, cemented a bond between us. In addition, Lisa spent years on Kibbutz Ketura in Israel and we have a mutual dear friend, also a Lisa. I am honored to know Lisa, even if it is from afar and happy to present this piece and her artwork below.

Please go to her website to learn more about Lisa and her work

Why can’t I buy a ‘sympathy card’? Put it in an envelope stick a stamp on it and send it to my bereaved loved ones? I think about my nephew Davis who is a competitive rock climber. He’s like Spiderman.Scaling walls and rock surfaces as if he’s got suction cups growing out of his hands and feet. If you ask him to clean a window that’s high up, or saw a withered branch off a tree- he’ll be insulted if you offer him a ladder. For Davis- the art and muscle of the climb are central to any task he must complete.

Unlike Davis who is swift, agile, and loves nothing more than to whiz through any task: I’ve spent a lifetime learning to slow it down. To let feelings sink in, simmer, bubble over, brew, and emerge. Especially during the pandemic when we can’t just jump in the car bringing a kugel or bubke to a shiva. Hug, wipe a tear. All that feeling that I’d pour into action: going, doing, rushing, bringing…

Standing over my paints and inks, collage pieces, oil stick and pencils I dig deep into my palette to think about the “you” who I love, the “you,” I am hoping to comfort. My fingers furrow through the paint, and matte medium to find the pathway, to sit with the grief, to imagine how comfort for a loss is embedded in the card I’m making.

On International Holocaust Day there was a swarm of postings, broadcasts, reminiscence. One that hooked my attention was an interview with Marek Edelman a surviving hero of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, I knew of him because he’d been in the BUND (Jewish Socialist) youth movement with my Aunt Zenia. I felt heartbreak and longing to hear her story, when I happened upon an oral history her sister recorded in 1984.

Like many of my peers I’ve spent a lifetime watching Holocaust documentaries. But it’s a whole different experience listening to a family member whose stories narrate the pictures now imprinted to my own memory.

What to do with those feelings? I searched the walls of my house that are covered with my paintings, scraps from magazines, ideas for stories, concepts to be unraveled in the book I’m working on. I came upon a beautiful, delicate Polish paper cut with a broken frame, and cracks in the glass from Zenia. The paper was starting to bend and curl.

For weeks I kept coming back to my own painting: trees, flowers, branches in the background. I couldn’t seem to get the contrast right. I tried many variations. But on Holocaust Memorial Day I realized I could take my aunt’s fraying paper cut and collage it into my painting: To create an overlay, depth. The black paper shapes brought out the brightness behind. The apparent chaos of the paper shapes brought balance and centeredness to the painting as a whole. Like my Aunt and her sister’s story, now a delicateoverlay of my worldview, my life.

Then I learned that my friend’s Polish father-in-law passed away. I’m very close to the whole family and I fretted how to encapsulate my breadth of feeling and concern for all of them. The breadth of condolence. I took a piece of the original painting, found beautiful lines of a poem by AR Ammons, and added a spare piece from the Polish Paper Cut. Day after day I found the missing elements. Today I will mail it. It’s what I do.

From Lisa's website:

Lisa is a trauma specialist and American-Israeli writer based in Boston who has worked internationally, including in Northern Ireland, Israel and Palestine. She is a special clinical consultant to The Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, a grassroots non-profit serving survivors of victims of homicide. Following the Boston Marathon Bombing, she worked with The Israel Trauma Coalition to provide services to Boston residents and was the featured trauma expert in a BBC broadcast following the bombing.

Lisa spent her formative young adult years living at Kibbutz Ketura, a farm collective in the Arava desert on Israel’s southern tip. Her undergraduate degree in Hebrew Literature from the Tel-Aviv Teacher’s Seminary brings a bi-lingual, multi-cultural perspective to her writing.

In 1996, she founded the Arts Incentives Programme (AIP) at McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA. AIP was recognized by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) for its success in reducing disparities in minority contact in the Juvenile Justice System. In April 2015, she published a chapter on her programme model, titled “Good Looking Out,” in Latanya: Gangs, Girls and Guns, Workbook & Leader’s Guide (Ed Gaskin, The Latanya Series).

Lisa’s current book, Bulletproof Therapist, is drawn from her work in three disparate places that have faced seemingly intractable pain and conflict: inner-city Boston, Israel/Palestine, and Northern Ireland. The examples of positive change that emerge in these conflict zones offer profound insights that inform and enrich the work of changemakers trying to achieve genuine peace and justice in any environment. The work combines narrative journalism, clinical insights, and memoir to provide narratives of healing.

66 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page