web analytics
September 2, 2015 / 18 Elul, 5775
At a Glance
Sponsored Post

Home » Sections » Arts »

Jewish Women Artists Talk About Their Work (Part Two)


         Last week, this column began discussing the exhibit, “Words Within,” works by members of the Jewish Women Artist’s Network at the Columbia/Barnard Hillel (through March 28). Particular attention was paid to Laura Kruger’s introduction in the catalog, Vivian Mann’s and Maya Katz’s introductions at the opening, and the works of Fay Grajower and Yona Verwer. In part two, I devote this column to four other artists from the show, and their comments on the challenges and rewards of working as a Jewish woman artist.



Midrash Pottery And Shabbat Chess


         For the past 25 years, Irene Helitzer, of Sea Cliff, NY, has created “MidrashPottery,” or Jewish ceremonial pottery, that “celebrates our traditions and define the ways Jews live their lives today.” Helitzer’s chosen media is particularly difficult, due to tough competition from inexpensive imports of mass produced Chinese and Philippines-made Judaica objects that she feels “are hurting the American Judaica artist.”


         “My work is an expression of living my life as a committed Jew and the pieces are intended to encourage the owners to use them,” she says. All of her work contains note cards explaining the ceremonies surrounding the piece.


         Her submission to “Words Within” is a Chess set, titled, “Shabbat Opposing the Work Week”  (Stone, 2005). The piece casts the Shabbat Bride as the queen, the Torah as the king, Angels of Peace as bishops, candles as knights, the rooks symbolize peace at home, and the pawns are challah, wine, pillows, a tzedakah box, a cholent pot, fish, roast chicken and the Siddur.


         The opposing side incorporates the working man and woman, boy and girl with backpacks, SUVs, ATM machines and pawns as “symbols of the work week,” along with credit cards, telephones, fast food, exercise equipment, computers, television, traffic signs and shopping carts. The board is a calendar design, with Shabbat in the center, orbited by the workdays. Helitzer sees the “Shabbat line up” as opposition to “a contemporary family, busy at work.”



Shabbat, Opposing the Work Week, by Irene Helitzer. Stoneware, 2005



          The set resembles a project Helitzer created of Passover chess sets (the Egyptians against the Israelites, obviously), which casts the two teams in an equally clever fashion. The Egyptian king is Pharaoh, the bishops are overseers, the knights are cats, the Pyramids are castles, and the pawns double as Egyptian deities and the Golden Calf. The Israelite team includes the People of Israel as King, Moses as the queen (“the Queen is the most active player”), Aaron and Miriam as bishops, lambs as knights,sukkah huts as castles, and the Ten Plagues as pawns.


Women Lighting The Torah


         Jeanette Kuvin Oren of Woodbridge, CT, has created Judaica exclusively in her entire 22-year career. Her chosen media and materials include hand-dyed silks, cottons, synthetic fabrics, quilting, mosaics, donor walls and stained glass.


         “Being a woman influences my art, of course, and it has helped make me successful,” she says. “Probably the ‘woman’ thing has helped most in my ability to listen carefully to what my clients (synagogues mostly) want to express in their Judaic art. My art is colorful and filled with my love of Judaism, which I think is picked up on by men and women, and children, too.”




Light of Torah, by Jeanette Kuvin Oren. Fabric Torah cover, 2006



         Kuvin Oren’s piece in “Words Within,” Light of Torah (fabric Torah cover, 2006), reflects her preference for “art that uplifts, informs, expresses my joy in Judaism, and is accessible.” The Torah cover shows active Jewish women: Eve pursuing knowledge, Sarah inviting guests, Leah cuddling a baby, Rebecca offering food, Rachel teaching children, Tamar leading a crowd, and Miriam leading the Israelites. Kuvin Oren explains that although many see the words of the Torah as outdated and irrelevant to women today, “They are, in fact, very relevant. Each of the figures on the Torah cover expresses a hope and desire women of all ages have for themselves.” She even added fluorescent bulbs within the cover, which allows the light/words to “shine outward to women of today and the future.”


Photographing The Hidden Synagogue


         Emily Corbato of Plum Island and Newton, MA, is a scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University. Her photograph of the synagogue, hidden in a Terezin storeroom in house L225, includes words painted on the wall:


         And in all this we still have not forgotten Your Name, Please do not forsake us, Rescue us on behalf of Your Name. Listen to our prayers. Candles symbolize the forbidden ceremonies held in darkness. Words from Hashkiveinu echo in my mind as I imagine these silent prayers: shelter us beneath Thy wings, to keep us safe throughout the night.


Terezin: The Hidden Synagogue, by Emily Corbato. Black and white silverprint, 2003



         Corbato describes the piece as art that is “most definitely Jewish. It is strong, especially when text is included … It says about Jewish art that it is powerful, it is profound and personal and universal and sad and glorious in its making. It will bring some viewers to tears, and will stay in the minds of others. It tells of tradition, history, hope, destruction, rebirth. It tells the Jewish story.”


         Although she is comfortable identifying herself as Jewish, a woman, and an artist – and any combination therein – Corbato stresses that she sees herself primarily as herself. “I want my work to stand by itself, not categorized by feminism or Judaism or any other attribute I do or do not have,” she adds. “There is no one path to being a Jewish woman artist, and everyone responds differently. However as a Jew there is always unity with other Jews, and this amity is of course felt among Jewish women artists, as represented in this JWAN exhibit.”


Ketubah Collage


         The piece that Flora Rosefsky of Atlanta, GA, submitted to the Columbia show is sure to be endemic to Jewish women art, as it incorporates a copy of the artist’s own Ketubah (which she points out, “only a Jewish woman would have”) and eyelet curtains and recycled quilt fabrics, which she adds, “a male artist would be less likely to use these materials in their work.”


Ketubah Reflections/ Revisited I, by Flora Rosefsky. Mixed media collage: pastel, gouache, watercolor, fabric, paper cutouts 2006



         Rosefsky defines herself as an artist in many ways: a spiritual mixed-media artist, a spiritual collage artist, an artist who expresses her Jewish heritage in her work, and one who seeks new ways to express Jewish ideas in a contemporary way. Her “Ketubah Reflections/Revisited I” is part of a series of four pieces on the theme of the Jewish marriage and “the lasting and unique quality of the Jewish marriage document, the Ketubah.” The collage of recycled curtain fabric, quilt textiles and paper cutouts “reflect the complexity of a marriage within the framework of one’s home.”


        Ultimately, though, the most Jewish aspect of the work came to Rosefsky from Jewish viewers who, no doubt, were all too happy to present their own interpretations and experiences. “Some saw the ‘curtain’ material as a ‘chuppah.’ Others saw the structure of a house with some chaos, and yet some order at the same time within it,” she says. “Does this make it ‘Jewish art?’ It might depend upon who sees the work, and where they are coming from as far as their own Jewish background.”


        Menachem Wecker is a painter, writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. He welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. His painting, “The Windows of Heaven,” will be on exhibit at the JCC of Greater Baltimore as part of an exhibit, which opened on March 25.

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.

If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Jewish Women Artists Talk About Their Work (Part Two)”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
President Obama in the fog.
US Says It Doesn’t Even Know How Many Americans Live in West Bank
Latest Sections Stories
Lunchbox Restaurant in Tel Aviv.

Bringing your own sandwich to a restaurant would appear as the height of chutzpah, but not any more—at least not at Lunchbox…


Last year, OneFamily published a cookbook in Hebrew featuring the bereaved mothers’ recipes.


How did an unresolved murder case turn into an accusation of ritual murder?


Excerpted from The Apple Cookbook (c) Olwen Woodier. Photography by (c) Leigh Beisch Photography with Food Stylist Robyn Valarik. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

The flag had been taken down in the aftermath of the Charleston shooting and was now back and flying.

A light breakfast of coffee and danishes will be available during the program.

A variety of glatt kosher food will be available for purchase at Kosher Korner (near Section 1).

Jewish Press South Florida Editor Shelley Benveniste will deliver a talk.

Corey Brier, corresponding secretary of the organization, introduced the rabbi.

The magnificent 400-seat sanctuary with beautiful stained glass windows, a stunning carved glass Aron Kodesh, a ballroom, social hall, and beis medrash will accommodate the growing synagogue.

Even when our prayers are ignored and troubles confront us, Rabbi Shoff teaches that it is the same God who sent the difficulties as who answered our prayers before.

I’ve put together some of the most frequently asked questions regarding bullies, friendship and learning disabilities.

His parents make it clear that they feel the right thing is for Avi to visit his grandfather, but they leave it up to him.

More Articles from Menachem Wecker
Menachem Wecker

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.”


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.

Max Ferguson’s 1993 painting Katz’s may be the second most iconic representation of the kosher-style delicatessen after the 1989 Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan film, When Harry Met Sally. Ferguson’s photorealistic painting depicts the deli from an interesting perspective, which is simultaneously inviting and hostile—in short, the dichotomy of deli culture.

The whole idea of an artful pushka (tzeddakah or charity box) is almost a tease, if not an outright mockery. Isn’t there something pretty backward about investing time and money in an ornate container to hold alms for the poor?

Located about nine miles north of Madrid, the Palacio Real de El Pardo (Pardo Palace) dates back to the early 15th century. Devastated by a March 13, 1604 fire that claimed many works from its priceless art collection, the Pardo Palace and its vast gardens were used as a hunting ground by the Spanish monarchs.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewish-women-artists-talk-about-their-work-part-two/2007/03/28/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: