The essential quality of an artist is his ability to detach himself from the superficial appearance of the image he is working with. He must be able to penetrate the true essence of the object and transform his impression into a picture with physical dimensions.

This artistic production reveals to the viewer that which he could not recognize on his own, an essence that was obscured by superficial layers. Only an artist has the skill to reveal the inner dimensions of an object, thus enabling the observer to see it with a different perspective, and to realize the limitations of his previous awareness.

In short, one who is divinely gifted, whether in sculpture, painting or another artistic endeavor, has the privilege of being able to convert inanimate objects (such as paint, brush and canvas) into a vital form. In a deeper sense, this implies the ability to transform the material into the spiritual (especially in cases where the production involves a rendering of living creatures). And this transfiguration truly comes into its own if the artistic medium is used to advance ideas that reflect Torah and mitzvos, thereby raising artistic expression to its highest level.

This discussion is closely related to one of the key characteristics of a Jew’s spiritual aspirations. As explained in the esoteric teachings of the Torah,1 the entire creation emanates from, and is constantly sustained by, the word of G‑d. However, because of the process of divine concealment, His word is hidden, and only the material substance is visible.

Therefore, the challenge (as well as the goal) is to become aware of the G‑dliness extant in all objects, and in so doing, to minimize the concealment of the true G‑dly reality of this world. We must take care not to allow extraneous matters to obscure the real purpose of our creation.

Even when we encounter difficulties and tests in life, we should see them as a vehicle to bring out our potential and help us in our spiritual growth. Keeping this perspective in mind will strengthen and inspire a person to cope with life’s inevitable challenges and setbacks.

Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe, Vol. 4, p. 223