web analytics

Have Artists Condemned The “Wayward Wife” To Oblivion? Richard McBee

3 Adar 5770 – February 17, 2010
At the risk of being crude, the narrative in Numbers 5 of the Sotah, the so-called "wayward wife," ought to be a goldmine for biblical painters. It is hard to imagine a biblical punishment more vivid and aesthetically fertile than the adulterous woman's belly bursting after she drinks the "bitter waters" into which the priest has erased the Divine Name - a violation of the third commandment so reprehensible it is clear how serious the Torah sees this issue. Forget the shyness of Esther before Ahasuerus, which has so fascinated artists for centuries. The Sotah is on trial for her life, literally exposed and alone in front of a host of men in the holy Temple. Numbers 5 devotes 21 verses to the Sotah; by comparison, Numbers 20 only gives 13 verses to Moses' sin of striking the rock, which prevents him from entering the Holy Land.

Ma’ayan: Zalman’s Suite

26 Shevat 5770 – February 10, 2010
Yisgadal v'yisgadash sh'mai rabba b'alma dee v'ra chir'usay. For many Jews there comes a time when we will say these words every day, many times a day, for 11 months as part of the process of mourning a parent. We bravely declare, "May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified in the world that He created as He willed." Over and over we repeat this plea, this affirmation of the greatness of God who took away our loved one. Our loss becomes the occasion for us to proclaim the glory of God's name found in His creation, the very world around us.

American and Biblical Forefathers

19 Shevat 5770 – February 3, 2010
Malcah Zeldis' watercolor painting "Jacob's Dream" (1982) is the only representation I know of the patriarch that represents him as bearded man with no moustache. The pink-skinned dreamer in Zeldis' painting wears a robe that evokes the technicolored dream coat his son Joseph would wear, and he sleeps on a hill using what the Bible describes as rocks (but Zeldis renders more as books) for pillows. In the background of the work, which belongs to the genre of na?ve art, one can spot the bundles of grain and the celestial objects that would later figure into Joseph's dream. As Jacob dreams of the changing of the angelic guard, Zeldis seems to say, he lays the foundation for Joseph's dreams of his own rise to power. The angels that ascend and descend the "ladder" - which is very flimsy and would surely not comply with fire codes - are red-headed and blue-eyed, and their wings sag at their sides like sacks over their shoulders.

Majzner’s Illuminated Torah

12 Shevat 5770 – January 27, 2010
For the Jewish artist the desire to illuminate a Torah is an irresistible act of devotion, an offering to Hashem as precious as any sacrifice imaginable. Each parsha is etched into the Jewish consciousness as a calendar for the year, changing weekly, subject, tone and atmosphere. From the primal drama of Lech Lecha to the national transformation of Yisro, and beyond to Moshe's tragic death on the eve of our long sought homecoming, the weekly portion celebrates and delineates God's complex relationship to His beloved. Illuminating the Torah parsha by parsha is the artist's ultimate amidah.

David Levine, 1924

5 Shevat 5770 – January 20, 2010
At a parent-teacher conference, one of my high school bible instructors told my mother I was well behaved and sat quietly in the back of the room. "If he is sitting quietly in class," my mother assured the rabbi, "he is either reading a book or drawing." She was right. My primary high school achievements were my ravenous readings of philosophy and literature and the few hundred copies I made of David Levine's brilliant pen-and-ink caricatures, which filled several sketchbooks. I was too young to get most of his political references, but when they were explained to me, I laughed genuinely and hysterically.

David Levine, 1924 – 2009: A Satirist Who Loved His Species

At a parent-teacher conference, one of my high school bible instructors told my mother I was well behaved and sat quietly in the back of the room. "If he is sitting quietly in class," my mother assured the rabbi, "he is either reading a book or drawing." She was right. My primary high school achievements were my ravenous readings of philosophy and literature and the few hundred copies I made of David Levine's brilliant pen-and-ink caricatures, which filled several sketchbooks. I was too young to get most of his political references, but when they were explained to me, I laughed genuinely and hysterically.

Geographical Silhouettes

20 Tevet 5770 – January 6, 2010
Per Deuteronomy 21, when a corpse is found in the wilderness, an elaborate ceremony ensues that is clearly intended to disrupt the regular routines of the townspeople living nearby. The judges and elders determine which city is closest to the crime scene, and the elders of that city take a young calf, which has never been yoked, to a dismal valley, which could never sustain agricultural life, where they break the calf's neck. The Levites then arrive to observe the elders washing their hands over the bloody calf and declaring, "Our hands did not spill this blood, nor did our eyes perceive it. Therefore, God, forgive your people Israel, whom You redeemed, and do not allow innocent blood to flow amongst your nation, and let this blood atone for them."

Israeli Art: Of Lands And The Land

14 Tevet 5770 – December 30, 2009
Sotheby's recent annual auction of Israeli art was given an extra dimension this year with a large selection from the Phoenix Insurance Company, Ltd.'s collection - one of the largest, most comprehensive collections of Israeli art in the world, spanning from the founding of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem in 1906 through to the present day. The selection at Sotheby's did not include this entire range. It was limited to smaller, more accessible works (there were no purely conceptual works, for example), and contained almost no sculpture, with the notable exception of Israel Prize-winner Danziger's brass Chariot.

Siona Benjamin’s Blue Angels

6 Tevet 5770 – December 23, 2009
A blue-skinned woman with at least one wing carries a caged dove in her right hand and has just released a golden bird from her other hand. Her hair is covered by a shawl that rests over a curved dagger (like the Yemenite jambiya) with a sheath decorated with the stars and stripes of the American flag. A corner of the shawl becomes a pair of tzitzit whose strings are wrapped around a lion's arms and midsection, perhaps restraining it. The woman, who represents a self-portrait of the artist Siona Benjamin, stands on a white ball, which unravels to reveal not string but floral patterns that border the painting. Beneath her yellow skirt, the woman wears striped pants that evoke either the uniform of a prisoner or a concentration camp inmate.

As Memories Fade, Photos Testify

29 Kislev 5770 – December 16, 2009
More than half a century has passed since the Holocaust. As the number of survivors dwindles, even as the amount of documentation grows, there has been a shift in focus from recording the facts to working out how we can relate to these facts. As the generation of eyewitnesses passes, we are entering an era that must deal with the problem of memory without access to direct experience. Yad VaShem's recent refurbishment is a manifestation of this shift, and the new focus can be felt across the spectrum.

Is There Religious Significance To Man Ray’s African Obsession?

22 Kislev 5770 – December 9, 2009
Jews, and particularly Jewish kings of the biblical period, are not supposed to be too keen on horses. An unhealthy love for things equestrian, according to the admonition in Deuteronomy 17:16, will tempt the king to return the Jewish people to Egypt. That being said, it must be admitted upfront that it is quite a stretch to ask whether a biblical prohibition against amassing royal stables of Egyptian horses applies to Jewish artists today.

Singer’s Artists

15 Kislev 5770 – December 2, 2009
The illustrator stands in an oft-denigrated position, scorned by modernists and traditional purists alike. For both schools of thought the sublime of art cannot be rendered literal. On the other hand, illustrators are curiously accepted if not celebrated by those in a postmodern disposition. In the last twenty years or so a creative relationship to text, narrative or non-visual motifs has gained legitimacy if not primacy in the visual arts. Under the watchful guidance of director Jean Bloch Rosensaft and the curatorial skill of Laura Kruger, the Hebrew Union College Museum casts one of its current exhibitions into this ideational fray. "Isaac Bashevis Singer and his Artists"is in its curious way an exposition on the illustrational as a contemporary motif.

Robert Frank’s Empathetic Photographs At the Metropolitan Museum

8 Kislev 5770 – November 25, 2009
In a 2008 photograph by Spencer Platt (Getty Images), a pedestrian wearing a red hooded sweatshirt and jeans and carrying a backpack walks down a rundown Detroit street. Behind him, graffiti covers the red and white brick buildings. Scrawled on one wall in enormous thick black letters, which are much larger than the figure, is the word "Help." In thinner lettering, partially obscured by the other graffiti inscription, someone has written: "It don't exist," presumably responding pessimistically to the call for help.

Leipzig Machzor: A Vision from the Past

17 Heshvan 5770 – November 4, 2009
Seven hundred years ago in a synagogue in southwest Germany near the Rhine River, the chazzan opened a new machzor on Yom Kippur as he began Kol Nidrei. The congregation glanced up and gasped as they saw the new prayer book he was davening from. A freshly written large-scale parchment book presented itself to them, specially made for the bimah, to be used on all the holidays, resplendent with brightly colored illuminations and richly adorned with gold-leaf and precious lapis lazuli decorations.

Hyman Bloom’s Unreal Rabbis

10 Heshvan 5770 – October 28, 2009
It is only appropriate to begin a Hyman Bloom review with a Chassidic tale. A young man left his village to train as a menorah maker says Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, and returned years later as a master designer. His father invited the local lamp makers to see his son's talents but grew angry when each guest found a different fault in his son's alleged masterpiece. The son then explained he had created the worst work imaginable. If the locals found just one fault each in his work, it was due to their blindness to their own aesthetic errors.

Kupferminc’s Wanderings

3 Heshvan 5770 – October 21, 2009
Mirta Kupferminc is an artist who has made her artistic mission a search for meaning in a world profoundly unstable, problematic and filled with the terrors of memory not entirely her own. As the child of Holocaust survivors, uprooted from Europe and transplanted in Argentina, one prevailing motif for her is that of a witness to the Holocaust one generation removed. A prominent text panel quotes Saul Sosnowski: " to be a witness who loves unconditionally; daring to judge G-d over Auschwitz and find him guilty; and pray to him still, even there, even in Auschwitz."

Does Daniel Levin Know the Location of the Second Temple Menorah?

12 Tishri 5770 – September 30, 2009
There is no denying that Dan Brown has become one of the most successful contemporary writers on religious art. The Lost Symbol recently sold a million copies on its first day of release, and it would only take 81 such days to surpass total sales of The Da Vinci Code. Perhaps because of his success, many are less than impressed with Brown's writings. "Usually we read the script, but in this case it wasn't necessary," a spokesman for the Roman archdiocese told The Telegraph (UK), explaining why a permit was denied for filming "Angels and Demons" at one of its churches. "Just the name Dan Brown was enough."

Zeroing In On Blacklisted Jewish Actors

27 Elul 5769 – September 16, 2009
Though the members of the House Committee on Un-American Activities had a copy of Lucille Ball's signed 1936 communist registration card, they accepted her excuse that she joined the party just to please her grandfather, because her name wasn't Jaffe, Chodorov, Berman or Phillip Loeb. So says Jim Brochu in his one-man show about Samuel Joel "Zero" Mostel, which argues that McCarthyism overlapped to a large extent with anti-Semitism. "She could have called her show I Love Lenin and they would have forgiven her. And they did forgive her," he adds.

Yael And Sisera In Art And Propaganda

13 Elul 5769 – September 2, 2009
When charged by the Prophetess Deborah, wife of Lapidoth, in Judges to free the Jews from the tyranny of Sisera, general of the Canaanite king Jacin's army, Barak the son of Abinoam famously responded with the biblical equivalent of "I'm right behind you." Deborah agreed to accompany Barak to Kedesh but told him Sisera would die by a woman's hand. Barak accepted the terms, and Sisera was eventually lured into Yael's tent, where she fed him milk to make him drowsy and drove a tent peg through his head.

Esther’s Swoon Revealed: Tintoretto’s Masterpiece

6 Elul 5769 – August 26, 2009
Earlier this summer I went up to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to see the blockbuster exhibition, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice. While rarely have I seen as many masterpieces collected together in a traveling show, one painting stood out for both its Jewish subject and the surprising way it narrated the dramatic story of Esther appearing before Ahasuerus. The painting, Esther Before Ahasuerus by Tintoretto, (1518-1594) was painted just as the 29-year-old artist was making his mark in Venetian society.

Latest News Stories

Sponsored Post

Recommended Today

Something Random from the Week

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/arts/have-artists-condemned-the-wayward-wife-to-oblivion-richard-mcbee/2010/02/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: