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August 28, 2015 / 13 Elul, 5775
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Explore The Sacred


Menachem Wecker

Menachem Wecker

And yet there’s something more afoot in this work. Moses is delivering his pièce de résistance and knows that he won’t be entering the Holy Land, and yet his posture suggests a dance, not unlike McBee’s works on “David Dancing.” If one of the important traits of a strong leader is projecting optimism even in the face of desperation, McBee’s Moses performs splendidly, and McBee’s treatment of Moses as both the focus of the composition as well as one element in a larger symphony anchors the narrative in a particular place – one might say, adapting “The Maltese Falcon,” that Moses looms on the edge, but ultimately is barred from what dreams are made of – in a way that text cannot accomplish alone.

McBee’s Mountain Torah reminds me, in its structure, of a Max Liebermann painting. A figure in white (Moses wearing a kittel?) ascends a golden mountain in the top left corner, as a cacophony of figures, which range from men wearing prayer shawls to angels, fill the bottom and right side of the canvas. Moses, if indeed he is receiving the Tablets of the Law at Sinai, enjoys silent commune with God, and it’s no wonder that the chaos surrounding the other figures helps breed a Golden Calf. Moses hands hang at his sides; his peers’ gesticulate wildly as Hebrew letters soar above them.

The trick, of course, is for Moses to bring those tablets, which he studied so perfectly with God, down into the chaos and to allow them to illuminate the world beneath the mountain – perhaps like the word of God emerging from the chasm between the light and shadow in Fedida’s Genesis works.

About the Author: Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.


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The exhibit, according to a statement from guest curator Michele Waalkes which is posted on the museum website, “examines how faith can inform and inspire artists in their work, whether their work is symbolic, pictorial, or textual in nature. It further explores how present-day artwork can lead audiences to ponder God, religious themes, venerated traditions, or spiritual insights.”

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It all started at an art and education conference at the Yeshiva University Museum. When one of the speakers misidentified a Goya painting at the Frick Collection, both the gentleman sitting next to me and I turned to each other and corrected the error simultaneously.

One of my favorite places when I was growing up in Boston was the used bookstore on Beacon and St. Mary’s streets. Boston Book Annex could play a used bookshop on television; it was dimly lit and cavernous, crawling with cats, and packed with a dizzying array of books, many of which sold three for a dollar. But used bookstores of this sort, however picturesque and inviting, are a relatively modern phenomena. In the Middle Ages, for example, I would never have been able to afford even a single used book unless I had been born into an aristocratic family. (Full disclosure, I was not.)

Jewish medals, several with Hebrew inscriptions and provocative imagery, were among the gems at The European Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, Netherlands, as I wrote in these pages two weeks ago. Another mini-trend at the fair, which will interest Jewish art aficionados, was an abundance of works by Marc Chagall.

It’s virtually impossible to ignore the financial aspects of TEFAF Maastricht, the annual arts and antiques fair in the historic city about two hours south of Amsterdam. More than 250 dealers from nearly 20 countries sell their wares—which span from Greek and Roman antiquities to contemporary sculptures—in the halls of the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre, whose corridors are adorned by nearly 65,000 tulips.

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Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/arts/explore-the-sacred/2014/01/06/

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