web analytics
July 28, 2014 / 1 Av, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
IDC Advocacy Room IDC Fights War on Another Front

Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.



Home » Sections » Arts »

Taking The Diaspora’s Portrait

Lost Futures: Journeys into the Jewish Diaspora
Photographs by Chrystie Sherman
Through January 9, 2009
The Austrian Embassy
3524 International Court, NW,
Washington, D.C.
http://www.acfdc.org/

 

Walking through Chrystie Sherman’s solo show at the Austrian Embassy in Washington will almost inevitably make viewers rethink their notions not only of what it means to be a Jew, but also what Jews look like. Lost Futures: Journeys into the Jewish Diaspora is the product of six years of traveling, wherein Sherman photographed Jews in communities that are disappearing. Included are images of Jews from Krasnaya Sloboda, Batumi, Privolnoye, Oguz, and Tbilisi in Azerbaijan and Georgia; Santiago de Cuba and Old Havana in Cuba; Teplik and Vinnytsa in the Former Soviet Union, Berdichev, Kiev, Odessa, Shargarod; Aghbalou Village, Arazane Village, and Tunisia in North Africa; and Tashkent, Bombay, Kochin, Parur District, Kottareddipalem, and Alibag in Uzbekistan.


Many of the images are difficult to look at. “I cried a lot on these trips,” Sherman said at the exhibit opening. “No one is smiling on these trips, because it is counterintuitive.” Sherman also found mixed responses from her would-be subjects, ranging from “terror to pleasure to hostility.” Yet, Sherman said, she became friends with many of them and sent them the photographs she had taken after they were developed.

 

 


Chrystie Sherman. “Rabbi,” 2002. Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

 

However sad, she compares her photographic project with Oscar Wilde’s famous 1890 novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, which tells the coming-of-age story of Dorian, a very attractive young man who posed for the artist Basil Hallward. As Dorian discovers more about himself, he realizes to his horror that his own depravity and sins are visited not upon him but upon Basil’s painting. Despite his reprehensible life, Dorian remains forever young and beautiful, as his representation becomes more and more terrifying. Sherman sees her work as akin to Basil’s portrait of “past, present, and future” − but added that, “Lost Futures” is “ultimately a question of the future” − the future of the far-flung Jewish communities.


One of the most gripping portraits in the show is a white-bearded rabbi who sits on a bench with a Holy Book in his hand. He wears a dark coat over a white robe and has a large knit kippa on his head, which tilts to the right as he looks at the camera. His face is deeply wrinkled, and he appears to have been disturbed from his studies or prayer by the photographer’s sudden appearance. Behind him is a structure of some sort that seems liable to collapse at any minute – a dramatic touch deepened by the dark shadows of the black-and-white image. According to Sherman’s caption, the rabbi is the oldest member of the Orthodox synagogue in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and he sits in front of the construction of a new synagogue, which will probably never be finished.

 

 


Chrystie Sherman. “Shabbat,” 2002. Bukhara, Uzbekistan.

 

“Shabbat,” which shows a housewife in a doorway to her house in Bukhara, carries a very different tone. The woman, who wears a dress that both evokes a lizard’s scales and camouflages with the doorway, is preparing Friday night dinner, according to the caption. Sherman’s compositional move of capturing the anonymous woman in the doorway provides a second frame, wherein the woman is in a doorframe, which sits within a larger frame. The viewer is offered no glimpse of what is inside the home, and a bright white light shines from behind the figure, almost offering her a halo. Like the rabbi, this woman’s expression is tough to read, and she could easily be mistaken for a movie star posing for a glamorous photo rather than a Jewish woman preparing for the Sabbath.

 

 

 


Chrystie Sherman. “Holocaust Survivor,” 2000. Teplik, Former Soviet Union.

 

The woman who posed in Teplik in the Former Soviet Union for “Holocaust Survivor” cannot be mistaken for a movie star. Most of the woman’s family perished in the war, and she lives by herself in a small wooden house. Sherman shows the woman, who wears a flower-patterned shirt and a shawl over her head, standing in a field full of weeds. The woman carries a walking stick in her right hand, and it seems that her laundry is hanging behind her. This photograph could be a companion piece to the Tashkent rabbi in a diptych, as the survivor tilts her head in the opposite direction. Like the rabbi, she looks directly at the viewer.

 

 

 


Chrystie Sherman. “Challah,” 2001-2002. Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.

 

In “Challah,” a young boy carries a loaf of challah that his father baked to the synagogue. The boy wears a striped polo shirt and a large kippa, and he stands in front of a street and an alleyway where two Cuban children sit. Viewers can compare and contrast the boy with the two children and arrive at a lot of differences. They are black and wear no shoes. He is white, holds a Jewish ritual food, and is dressed nicely. In fact, many viewers might be comforted by the fact that, a loaf of challah is a loaf of challah is a loaf of challah − and they make it the same way in Cuba. But that does not seem to be the point. Sherman’s work is about gathering together − perhaps an antidote to the Diaspora that she represents − and about finding common bonds between Jews around the world, even as they are very different.


I think this is a touchy point for Jewish art. If Diaspora and losing the Temple is supposed to be our punishment for sin, and if we are spread out around the world just as the builders who created the Tower of Babel were, because we were deficient in our faith, then ought Jewish art celebrate those differences?


Is documenting Diaspora an appropriate project for a Jewish artist? I think there is a great risk in becoming enamored of Diaspora, since a multicultural world where people look different and act differently and have different customs sounds far more exciting than one where everyone is the same. Sherman agreed that the aim is to leave the Diaspora and return to Israel, but she was not particularly worried about the notion of memorializing Diaspora.


“As a photographer, to go around and see these really ancient communities that are really steeped in community and history that are drying up is very sad,” she said. “Maybe I just have a problem with things that end.”
    
MENACHEM WECKER welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He is a painter and writer, and resides in Washington, D.C.

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 “Taking The Diaspora’s Portrait”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
IDF map of Gaza City launcher sites centered among high schools.
Israeli Cabinet Cowed Back Into ‘Tit-for-Tat’ by Obama?
Latest Sections Stories
Respler-072514

The real solution to bullying is to empower the bullied child.

Schonfeld-logo1

Time outs increases compliance and positive behavior far more than other forms of discipline

Schild-Edwin

Interestingly, sometimes people who have a very high self-awareness may experience intense reactions to circumstances that others might respond to more mildly.

“You Touro graduates are automatically soldiers in [Israel’s] struggle, and we count on you,” Rothstein told the graduates.

The lemonana was something else. Never had we seen a green drink look so enticing.

On his marriage, he wrote: “This is what I believe: something of the core, of the essence of this meaningful and life-affirming Judaism will not be absent from our home” (1882).

With the recent kidnapping by the Hamas and the barbaric murder of three children – Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Frankel, we believe that the best answer to honor the memory of those murdered is to continue building those very communities – large and small – that our enemies are trying to destroy.

Written entirely through Frayda’s eyes, the reader is drawn by her unassuming personality.

Adopting an ancient exegetical approach that is based on midrashic readings of the text, thematic connections that span between various books of the Bible are revealed.

While Lipman comes from an ultra-Orthodox background and is an Orthodox rabbi, he offers a breath of fresh air when he suggests that “polarization caused by extremism and isolationism in the religious community may be the greatest internal threat to the future of the Jewish people”

The Joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten defines a mentch as “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character.”

Certainly today’s communication via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and the like, including the ubiquitous Whatsapp, has reduced the need to talk with people and communicate at length.

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.”

Weck-051812

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.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/taking-the-diasporas-portrait/2008/10/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: