There is a Yiddish expression, Hoch mir nit a chinik, which literally translates to "Don’t you hit me with a tea kettle!" Since Jewish people are not generally being inclined to smack one another with teapots, the phrase really comes to mean, "Stop nagging me!" Presumably at some point in history someone felt that their significant other’s repeated verbal bombardments felt like the blows of a kitchen implement, and the expression was born.
Among American Jews, the phrase is often anglicized and shortened to "Don’t hock me!" (For the curious, there is additional information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hakn_a_tshaynik.)
October 20 – January 20
at the De Young Museum
I’m not a great connoisseur of art, though I know what I like. Hockney’s works include the use of super-saturated pinks and greens, making those paintings seem like they belong in a Miami Beach flamingo colony. Others are only slightly more muted, landscapes of almost overly verdant hills or comprising a variety of visual takes on a single tree-lined country road. There are portraits, often arresting and nearly all quite somber; works done in the iPad; and huge wall-size video screens depicting a slowly changing seasonal landscape. I found the winter scene – full of snowy, leafless trees bent like a protective tunnel over a tire-rutted path, the visuals slowly changing in each of nine panels – to be mesmerizing. I wanted to take it home. Seeing one Hockney for the first time, I wasn’t sure if I liked it, or even if it was good. Taking in the huge swatch of works on display, the man does have talent. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Taking in the exhibition, with some pieces taking up huge swaths of wall space and the impact growing from room to adjoining room, it indeed felt like I had been hit with a tea kettle – but in a good way. There is something to be said about the cumulative effect of seeing one artist’s output en masse, with all its colors, seasons, landscapes, portraited faces, and embrace of new media. I came away with a feeling of having experienced vibrancy and perhaps a heightened appreciation for color, and for trees, and for country roads.
When I came to embrace the Greatest Artist, God himself, I had a similar feeling. My journey took me over several years of rocky terrain. In the end, I came as a Jew to faith in Jesus. At the start, following Jesus was a bit like seeing one painting, one piece, one portrait. After a while though, as faith cohered, took on greater shape, and began to sculpt my life, it became an accumulation of new insights, realizations, and perspectives. Faith became an entire exhibition, and moving day to day through my life, the whole became greater than the sum of its parts. That’s how it is for me with David Hockney. I enjoyed being "hit with a kettle" in his work, and I think that God has, and continues to, "hock me with a chinik." For Hockney and for God (who gave Hockney his giftings, whether or not he realizes it), the experience is not one of being nagged, but of being awakened to a greater reality.