Mel Alexenberg
Author of "Through a Bible Lens"

Soul of a Creator: Wolf Prize Laureates 2015

As a member of the Council of the Wolf Foundation, I had the honor of welcoming the 2015 Wolf Prize Laureates at the Wolf Foundation Summit, on Thursday, May 28th.  At this Summit conference at Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, the laureates presented their creative work to a large responsive audience.

On Sunday, May 31st, the Wolf Prizes will be awarded by the President of Israel at the Knesset.

The Wolf Prize in the sciences is considered second in importance to the Nobel Prize, with more than a third of recipients going on to win the Nobel. In the arts, it is regarded as the most important award.

In the field of sciences, four prizes were awarded. Prof. Linda J. Saif of Ohio State University received her prize for her work in agriculture. For physics, Prof. James Bjorken from Stanford University and Prof. Robert Kirshner from Harvard University were cited.

The mathematics prize went to James Arthur of the University of Toronto.

Prof. John Kappler and Prof. Philippa Marrack of National Jewish Health in Denver and Prof. Jeffrey Ravetch of Rockefeller University in New York received the medicine prize.

In the arts, the prize was presented to American soprano Jessy Norman and to the Israeli-American pianist Murray Perahia.

I opened the Wolf Foundation Summit with the following words.

On behalf of the Council of the Wolf Foundation, I welcome to Israel the 2015 Wolf Prize Laureates in Agriculture, Mathematics, Medicine, Physics and the Arts. The Foundation is honoring you for demonstrating groundbreaking creativity and innovative approaches in your fields, while achieving the highest level of excellence.

We are privileged to have you join with creative and Innovative Israelis is this conference on excellence in science, arts and society.

As a scientist turned artist, it is my great pleasure to make some introductory remarks.  My lifelong research and teaching explore the questions posed by the sessions today that explore what makes a winner and the languages of the sciences and the arts.

My pioneering interdisciplinary research on the aesthetic dimensions of the creative process in art and science at New York University in the 1960’s was expanded into the book Aesthetic Experience in Creative Process published by Bar-Ilan University Press in 1981.  When I analyzed in-depth interviews of prominent scientists and artists about their creative process, I discovered that when the specific vocabularies of science and art were disregarded, the creative process was the same even if the aims were different.  It’s like a flight from New York to Tel Aviv and a return flight from Tel Aviv to New York.  While on the plane, we seem to experience no difference.  However, the points of departure and arrival are quite different.

The questions posed by today’s conference are the questions that I have asked my students in graduate courses that I have taught over the years:  “Art, Science and Education” at Tel Aviv University, “Morphodynamics: Design of Natural Systems” at Columbia University, and both “Art, Technology and Culture” and “Mindleaping: Developing Creativity for the Electronic Age” at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies.

The ideas that I developed for my courses evolved into my recent books Educating Artists for the Future: Learning at the Intersections of Art, Science, Technology and Culture and The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness, both published by Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press.

My artworks exploring digital technologies and global systems are in the collections of more than forty museums worldwide from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

I welcome you to our vibrant and innovative country with the words of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, poet, down-to-earth mystic and spiritual leader of the Jewish community in the Land of Israel during the first part of the 20th century.  His words draw on the biblical books of Job and Jeremiah in exploring the source of human creativity.

“Whoever is endowed with the soul of a creator must create works of imagination and thought, for the flame of the soul rises by itself and one cannot impede it on its course…. The creative individual brings vital, new light from the higher source where originality emanates to the place where it has not previously been manifest, from the place that “no bird of prey knows, nor has the falcon’s eye seen.” (Job 28:7), “that no man has passed nor has any person dwelt” (Jeremiah 2:6)” 

See past Wolf Prize presentations here.


About the Author
Mel Alexenberg is an artist, educator, writer, and blogger working at the interface between art, technology, Jewish thought, and living the Zionist miracle in Israel. He is the author of "Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media," "The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness," and "Dialogic Art in a Digital World: Judaism and Contemporary Art" in Hebrew. He was professor at Columbia, Bar-Ilan and Ariel universities and research fellow at MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies. His artworks are in the collections of more than forty museums worldwide. He lives in Ra’anana, Israel, with his wife artist Miriam Benjamin.