MIAMI BEACH — A year ago, when the unthinkable happened and the world first stood still, Sasha Wortzel would take a walk down to the beach every day at sunset. “It was one of the only things I could bring myself to do, but it also became a ritual or meditation each day,” they explained to Hyperallergic from their studio in Miami Beach. Like so many others, Wortzel was looking for ways to process the grief of lost connections, lost souls, and a loss of certainty. The sunset, with its habitual fade into the horizon, was a slow burn the artist could count on.
In this search for something to hold onto, Wortzel also turned to their faith. Raised Jewish, they began joining a Zoom call a friend had organized to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish, a prayer that “doesn’t even mention death, it’s much more about living for the day,” Wortzel notes. The idea that ritual could carry one through a disorienting moment of ambiguity became crucial in the wake of a global pandemic, and became the backdrop from which Wortzel created many of the new works in Dreams of Unknown Islands, their solo exhibition now on view at Oolite Arts.