When Deobrah Tepper reads a psalm or piece of liturgy, she sees more than the words on the page.
For Tepper, an active member of the Jewish community, the words of the Torah create real images that she turns into artwork through paper cutting.
"It has always seemed easy for me to transfer that prose into a piece of art that can speak in a powerful way," said the Highland Park artist. "My work brings in a lot of nature and universal messages of unity, water, sand and sky."
According to Tepper, her art is also heavily influenced by the time she and her family spent in Jerusalem. While her husband was attending rabbinical school, the artist said she took as many courses in art as she could find.
"Being in Jerusalem was very inspiring," she said. "There is a lot of blue in my work and that's the Jerusalem sky. It's always blue."
She said she is also inspired and challenged by the fact that her art allows her to tell a story. For instance, Tepper said she was commissioned to do a piece commemorating a righteous gentile whose family gave a safe haven to two Jewish children during World War II.
"I love the one-on-one aspect," she said. "I enjoy getting to hear a story and come up with a design and work with a client."
Tepper said most of her work is done on commission. She sold her first piece in 2004 and has done a variety of pieces including several tree of life images and Torah covers.
"It's a painstakingly slow process," said Tepper of the actual paper cutting. "It takes hours to complete, but I love cutting. It feels like a paintbrush in my hand. It's meditative and forces me to be slow and think."
Although some modern paper-cut artists use lasers to make their paper cuts, Tepper said she uses an X-acto knife and a 10x magnifier lens.
"It's an Old World tradition and I wanted to keep it that way," she said.
Tepper's work is currently being featured in an exhibit at the Jewish Cultural Center until May 11. The center is located at 5461 N. Terrace Road. For more information or to view Tepper's work, visit www.deborahtepperpapercuts.blogspot.com.