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October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘paint’

Israeli Company Develops New Riot Control Vehicle

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Beit Alfa Technologies, an Israeli defense company, has developed an advanced model of a riot-control vehicle that allows for the dispersion of the Skunk substance, as well as tear gas, paint, foam, and water.

The vehicle includes a special foam fire extinguisher that allows it to operate while under attack from molotov cocktails and other volatile substances.

Literacy Illuminated (Part II)

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Like most first grade classrooms, the one I was observing had students with multiple reading levels. Accordingly, the head teacher had divided the students into different groups so that they could practice skills that were relevant to all members of the small group. First, I sat in the “high level” group. The students, even though they were only in first grade, were beginning to read Richard and Florence Atwater’s whimsical novel Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

Shmuel, a freckled redhead, began to read aloud to his classmates as they looked on in their own copies of the book,

“It was an afternoon in late September. In the pleasant little city of Stillwater, Mr. Popper, the house painter, was going home from work. He was carrying his buckets, his ladders, and his boards so that he had a rather hard time moving along. He was spattered here and there with paint and calcimine, and there were bits of wallpaper clinging to his hair and whiskers, for he was a rather untidy man.”

Shmuel read the piece flawlessly, even pronouncing “calcimine” with ease. However, his voice was monotonous, he barely paused at the periods, and his intonations reflected no understanding of the text he was reading. His groupmates followed along silently, but they too seemed unaffected by the humorous portrayal of the messy Mr. Popper. What was going on with these “high level readers?” They seem to have mastered reading the words off of the page, but have little appreciation or understanding of the literature they are reading.

In my last article, I explored the merits of phonics and sight-reading in fostering reading skills. Regardless of the method used, the goal of both phonics and sight-reading is to allow readers to progress to the next level. After they have learned how to decode words, children can move on to comprehension and fluency. Shmuel and his groupmates seem to be adept at decoding the words on the page, but have little or no understanding of the text they are reading. Are these truly high level readers?

Reading Without Comprehension – An Exercise in Frustration

Many children who learn to read the words before they understand the meaning behind them will lack comprehension even as they mature as readers. Scholastic Press, an expert teaching source, explains that comprehension is not simply in the text, but rather that “reading is a ‘transaction’ in which the reader brings purposes and life experiences to bear to converse with the text. This meeting of the reader and the text results in the meaning that is comprehension. Comprehension always attends to what is coded or written in the text, but it also depends upon the reader’s background experiences, purposes, feelings, and needs of the moment. That’s why we can read the same book or story twice and it will have very different meanings for us.” Therefore, students need to actively engage in comprehension strategies in order to understand and ultimately enjoy what they read.

Research has shown that very early readers who have little or no comprehension of what they are reading derive trivial pleasure from reading. As they develop, if comprehension does not improve, these “advanced” readers will grow to dislike reading, as it is simply a repetition of hollow and meaningless words.

What are some strategies that aid comprehension?

Making connections: Children can make connections with the text by using their own background information. Creating these connections helps the student understand where this book falls in the knowledge that they have already mastered. There are three main types of connections that children can make:

Text to self: connections between the text and the reader’s personal experience.

Text to text: connections between the text and another text the reader has read.

Text to world: connections made between the text and something that occurs in the world.

Questioning: Questions help students clarify and deepen their understanding of the text they are reading. There are many different types of questions: vocabulary words, predictions (what will happen next), compare and contrast, and cause and effect.

Visualizing: Visualizing occurs when readers create mental pictures of the text they are reading. Visualization helps students engage in the text in a personal and memorable manner. As they continue to read, the pictures continue to change with the changing personality traits of the different characters.

Remember, expert readers automatically employ these reading strategies without even realizing it. Once students are taught to use these strategies, they will become second nature.

Fluency: When Speed Matters

Once students begin to master the skill of comprehension, fluency becomes the next key indicator of a child’s reading ability. Fluency is the ability to read aloud expressively and with understanding. When fluent readers read aloud, the text flows in a regular and clear manner, rather than sounding choppy and halting. Without fluency, the world of imagination, humor, and drama contained in the finest books is no more than a tangle of words.

What My Dog Taught Me About God

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Upon request, I am sharing the following story from my friend, Mrs. S.

Two years ago Mrs. S. was divorced after an unhappy, childless marriage. Now in her mid-60s, she has no interest in finding a new husband. At this time, she told me, she is just beginning to discover herself as an independent adult, and she is reveling in the opportunity to make her own choices on everything from what to cook for dinner to what color to paint the bedroom. The road to independence has been difficult. Using imagery from Psalm 23, she told me that she has come through the dark valley and is now walking in sunlight. However, she still wasn’t feeling that God was with her.

Indeed, where was God during the dark years of her marriage? Why hadn’t she had children? Why was she alone and struggling financially at this time of her life? Why wasn’t God taking care of her? She told me that all these thoughts had been eating at her for a long time – to be honest, since before her divorce.

Another, simpler thing that bothered her after her husband moved away was loneliness. Being alone in the house was scary, but she was unable to sell it due to the poor housing market. Finally she decided to get a dog. She went to the local animal shelter and found a small poodle mix to adopt. Soon she and the dog had become great companions. He followed her around when she was busy, slept quietly at her feet when she read, and sat in the kitchen doorway brimming with hopeful anticipation when she cooked. After she had a “dog door” installed he was able to go out to the fenced yard when he needed to, so she could leave him alone when she went to work.

“About once a week I take him to the dog park,” she related. “There he can run around freely and play with other dogs. He loves it. He makes friends with the other dog owners and roughhouses with the other dogs. The one thing he doesn’t do is pay any attention to me. Some dogs huddle near their owners. Not mine. Once I let him off his leash, he doesn’t come near me until I call him to go home. I used to think he was so busy he just didn’t even remember I was there.

“Then one day he was playing with some other dogs about 80 feet from me. A French Bulldog, about twice my dog’s weight, started barking aggressively at me. Suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, my dog streaked up to me. He didn’t attack the other dog; he didn’t even act aggressively. He just dashed up to me and jumped on me, his whole rear end wagging to beat the band. The other dog took one look and wandered off to find someone else to bully. As soon as the “danger” was gone, my dog ran back to his friends and resumed his game.”

She paused thoughtfully before continuing her story. “I thought about this for a long time. We had been in the park for about half an hour, and during that time he hadn’t come near me, although I was keeping my eye on him. I was sure he had totally forgotten about me and didn’t have a clue where I was. However, the minute I was threatened, he was there protecting me.

“That night, when we were taking our evening walk, I was thinking of how protective he had been when suddenly he crossed from my left to my right. Sometimes he walks in a proper ‘heel’ position, just behind me and to the left, and sometimes he lags behind. Usually, however, he walks in front of me – not dragging on the leash, just keeping a few paces ahead of me. That evening when he changed position I looked around and saw that someone had gotten into a car across the street just ahead of us. My dog had placed himself between this possible danger and me.  After that, I noticed that he changes position whenever he perceives a danger. Whenever he sees another person, a moving car, or something out of the ordinary like a pile of rubbish by the curb, or if he hears something behind us, he gets between it and me. He is doing his 14-pound best to keep me safe.

Kinderish Kunst: Naïve Art

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a


Jewish Childhood in Poland Before the Holocaust


Through October 1, 2009


The Jewish Museum


1109 5th Ave at 92nd St, New York



 

 


As a matter of principle, I must begin this column by stating bluntly that in my opinion the column’s subject, Mayer Kirshenblatt, though he is a very talented storyteller, is not a very good painter by any means. Normally, that would present the end of the story. There are more than enough great artists who grapple with Jewish subject matter and themes that this column does not need to address work that is anything but first rate. That The Jewish Museum’s curatorial staff’s gave Kirshenblatt, the so-called Mayer July (which involves a Yiddish version of the nickname “Crazy Mayer”), his own exhibit is hardly enough of a credential, either. Yet, there is something unique about Kirshenblatt’s body of work, which merits further inspection.

 

Though he is an amateur, Kirshenblatt’s work features absolutely everything he saw in the shtetl. He might not have made art per se, but he was an artist. His work resembles Chagall’s, if one used a strainer that allowed the art to flow away and just the shtetl to remain. But most importantly, Kirshenblatt’s paintings – or illustrations-in-paint might be a better term – carry the same appeal as genre paintings like van Gogh’s “The Potato Eaters” (1885), or even the works depicting peasants by the 16th century Netherlandish artist, Pieter Brueghel the Elder. Kirshenblatt’s repertoire includes works like: “Boy with a Herring” (1992), “Water-Carriers at Harshl Kishke’s Well” (1992), “The Bagel-Seller” (2002), “Chimney Sweep”  (1999), “The Wigmaker” (1994), “The Only Jew in the Volunteer Fire Brigade” (1994), “Tombstone Carver” (1995), and “The Rope Maker” (1994).

 

 


Mayer Kirshenblatt. “Potato Harvest, Iłża” (2001). Acrylic on canvas.

 

 

All of the 381 illustrations in the exhibit catalog date from the past 20 years. But calling Kirshenblatt prolific of late would only get at part of the story. The artist, born in 1916 in Apt (Opatów in Polish), moved to Canada at age 17. He first started painting at age 73 upon the recommendations of his daughter and wife.

 

The young Kirshenblatt was a bit of a rebel, who got into trouble in school, and the older painter’s best asset might be his remarkable ability to retain his youthful perspective (though his paintings lack perspective in the technical sense of the word). “I consider myself a storehouse of memories. My project is to paint prewar life in a small town in Poland. That’s what really interests me,” he writes in the catalog. “The way I paint is important, of course, but the most important thing is to get a subject the subjects I decide to paint are those that have a story to tell.”

 

“Regrettably,” Kirshenblatt continues, “I have very little imagination. I don’t dream or, if I do, the dream is nothing I can paint. I can only paint what I lived through. I can only paint what is in my memory and in my head.” But he is being modest. His works, though presumably historical and sociological (viewers must take his word for it, ultimately), also reveal a tremendous imagination.

 

 


Mayer Kirshenblatt. “Boy with Herring” (1992). Acrylic on canvas. All works, collection of the artist. Courtesy of Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett. © 2009 Mayer Kirshenblatt.

 

 

“Boy with Herring” is a self-portrait, in which the young Kirshenblatt carries the fish in his right hand as he walks down the cobbled street. Kirshenblatt’s sense of detail is impressive. Two women watch from the side of the street, and all the windows, doors, chairs and porches are carefully rendered, as is the lettering on a sign affixed to the building. In his own words, Kirshenblatt describes his attire as “the unofficial uniform for boys from non-Orthodox homes who attended the Polish public school,” including a four-cornered, leather cap that religious Jews avoided wearing “because the seams on the top of the hat formed a cross.”

 

Kirshenblatt also wears a navy blue jacket, the Slowacki collar (named for a 19th century Polish poet), gray “plus fours,” which resembled skirts, and “red ski boots with brass eyes and wide yellow shoelaces,” which he and his peers considered sporty. “We looked pretty smart with those nice shoes and knee high socks,” he writes.

 

Since paper was expensive, Kirshenblatt carries the herring with only enough newspaper to cover the part of the fish his hand touches, while the head and tail remains exposed. (Kirshenblatt would lick the drops of brine from the head and tail.) Not only does the artist present an image of the herring-carrying episode, but he also provides a shopping list of the herring’s culinary prospects. Male herrings were ideal, the fish could be turned into sauce, the head was a delicacy for the head of the family, and one herring could feed a family of four or five.

 

 


Mayer Kirshenblatt. “The Black Wedding in the Cemetery, c. 1892″ (1996). Acrylic on canvas.

 

 

“The Black Wedding in the Cemetery” depicts an unusual scene: a group of people dance in a cemetery; in the foreground are tombstones, which contain inscriptions identifying some belonging to Leviim and others to Kohanim. The wedding, it turns out, was a community-sponsored celebration for a young orphan and a young bachelor, both penniless, after a holy rabbi recommended a cemetery wedding to put an end to a cholera outbreak. “Perhaps the dearly departed will intervene with the Holy One to help,” was the rabbi’s reasoning.

 

 


Mayer Kirshenblatt. “Boy in the White Pajamas” (1992). Acrylic on canvas.

 

 

Another magical intervention surfaces in “Boy in the White Pajamas.” The boy, standing on the right side of the painting, was born to parents who had seven daughters and no sons. His father, who was called Der Shvartser Khiel (Khiel the Brunet, who was incidentally a redhead), was a poor cobbler, who implored his friends to buy low when the tax collector confiscated his tools (he hid the valuables) and auctioned them off outside his shop when he failed to pay. The scheme worked, and the friends purchased the tools for cheap and re-sold them to Khiel for much less than the taxes would have cost him.

 

But, as Kirshenblatt explains, every man wants a son to recite the Kaddish for him after he dies, so the man went to the rabbi and asked him how he could have a son. He had lost all his male children in childbirth, and could hardly afford to keep having daughters whose dowries exceeded his means. The rabbi recommended dressing the next male baby in all white (to confuse the Angel of Death and make it think the child was already dead) and giving him an amulet to wear constantly. Apparently, the plot worked.

 

If there were a Jewish museum like the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Md., it would be the perfect venue for works like Kirshenblatt’s. It reminds me (at least some of the acrobat scenes do) of Michael Gleizer’s paintings of Chassidim (reviewed in this column December 24, 2008), and perhaps would do well at The Chassidic Art Institute. But it also makes sense at The Jewish Museum, because Kirshenblatt was so persistent in his naïve approach that he may have earned himself a different sort of nickname than Mayer July: the Yiddishe Henri Rousseau.


 


Menachem Wecker welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He is a painter and writer, residing in Washington, D.C.

Kinderish Kunst: Na?ve Art

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a

Jewish Childhood in Poland Before the Holocaust

Through October 1, 2009

The Jewish Museum

1109 5th Ave at 92nd St, New York

www.thejewishmuseum.org 

 

 

As a matter of principle, I must begin this column by stating bluntly that in my opinion the column’s subject, Mayer Kirshenblatt, though he is a very talented storyteller, is not a very good painter by any means. Normally, that would present the end of the story. There are more than enough great artists who grapple with Jewish subject matter and themes that this column does not need to address work that is anything but first rate. That The Jewish Museum’s curatorial staff’s gave Kirshenblatt, the so-called Mayer July (which involves a Yiddish version of the nickname “Crazy Mayer”), his own exhibit is hardly enough of a credential, either. Yet, there is something unique about Kirshenblatt’s body of work, which merits further inspection.

 

Though he is an amateur, Kirshenblatt’s work features absolutely everything he saw in the shtetl. He might not have made art per se, but he was an artist. His work resembles Chagall’s, if one used a strainer that allowed the art to flow away and just the shtetl to remain. But most importantly, Kirshenblatt’s paintings – or illustrations-in-paint might be a better term – carry the same appeal as genre paintings like van Gogh’s “The Potato Eaters” (1885), or even the works depicting peasants by the 16th century Netherlandish artist, Pieter Brueghel the Elder. Kirshenblatt’s repertoire includes works like: “Boy with a Herring” (1992), “Water-Carriers at Harshl Kishke’s Well” (1992), “The Bagel-Seller” (2002), “Chimney Sweep”  (1999), “The Wigmaker” (1994), “The Only Jew in the Volunteer Fire Brigade” (1994), “Tombstone Carver” (1995), and “The Rope Maker” (1994).

 

 

Mayer Kirshenblatt. “Potato Harvest, Iłża” (2001). Acrylic on canvas.

 

 

All of the 381 illustrations in the exhibit catalog date from the past 20 years. But calling Kirshenblatt prolific of late would only get at part of the story. The artist, born in 1916 in Apt (Opat?w in Polish), moved to Canada at age 17. He first started painting at age 73 upon the recommendations of his daughter and wife.

 

The young Kirshenblatt was a bit of a rebel, who got into trouble in school, and the older painter’s best asset might be his remarkable ability to retain his youthful perspective (though his paintings lack perspective in the technical sense of the word). “I consider myself a storehouse of memories. My project is to paint prewar life in a small town in Poland. That’s what really interests me,” he writes in the catalog. “The way I paint is important, of course, but the most important thing is to get a subject the subjects I decide to paint are those that have a story to tell.”

 

“Regrettably,” Kirshenblatt continues, “I have very little imagination. I don’t dream or, if I do, the dream is nothing I can paint. I can only paint what I lived through. I can only paint what is in my memory and in my head.” But he is being modest. His works, though presumably historical and sociological (viewers must take his word for it, ultimately), also reveal a tremendous imagination.

 

 

Mayer Kirshenblatt. “Boy with Herring” (1992). Acrylic on canvas. All works, collection of the artist. Courtesy of Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett.

Listening To The Paint’s Music: Marilyn Banner’s Encaustics

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

My Space on 7th, Non-juried,


Group Exhibition, 50 Local Artists


Touchstone Gallery


406 7th Street NW 2nd Floor, Washington, DC


http://www.touchstonegallery.com


 


Marilyn Banner’s encaustic painting “Listening” (2008) at first appears to be ironically titled. One would expect a painting with that name to be calm and pretty, with pastel colors and an aura that would be compatible with a hospital’s waiting room. Instead, “Listening” is a very dramatic work, with thick paint, bold strokes, and text that seems cut violently into the surface in some areas, and smeared elsewhere almost to erasure.


 


The square painting could be interpreted as a flag or a landscape with deep-blue mountains and a body of water, but if it does depict a natural setting, a storm has already begun to overcome the landscape. What relevance could the term “listening have to such a loud and overbearing piece?

 

 



“Listening” 2008. Encaustic on wood, 12×12.” Courtesy of Marilyn Banner.


 

                     


As Banner describes it, she created the work while listening to a “beautiful” tune, “In the Garden of Shechina” by songwriter Hannah Tiferet Siegel. Then, in residence at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts for the eighth time, Banner wrote the text of the first two verses of Siegel’s song onto “Listening,” which is one of 24 pieces of hers that recently hung at the Touchstone Gallery in Washington. Siegel’s verses read as follows:


 


Born from the earth


Breathed by the air


Healed in the water


Kindled with prayer,


I walk through the fiery sword of truth


And listen


With all my heart.


 


I am the Tree of Life


In the Garden of Shechina


Singing a psalm of wonder and love


Ki hi m’kor habracha [because it is the source of blessing].


 


After examining the text, viewers can begin to approach the work with a different sort of listening – perhaps the kind the prophet Elijah came to practice.


 


In the Book of Kings I (Chapter 19), just after he defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel when a divine fire came down to consume his sacrifice and just after he prophesized that rain would finally come to the famine-struck region, Elijah found himself fleeing for his life from Ahab and his wife Jezebel. In the desert, Elijah grew so hungry that he was ready to give up his life, much as Jonah had desired when the sun bore down too heavily on him outside Nineveh. But an angel directed Elijah to eat, and he then encountered the Divine Presence on a mountain.


 


Like much of the prophetic experience, Elijah’s encounter with G-d carried a strong aesthetic component. First a powerful wind struck the mountains and decimated the rocks. Then, an earthquake struck, after which a fire appeared and scorched whatever had survived the wind and the quake. But, the Torah explains, G-d was not in the wind, the rocks, or the fire. Instead, G-d’s voice came in a form that was not pretentious and dramatic: a “kol d’mamah dakah,” a thin, soft voice.


 


Elijah came to see that divinity and greatness were not necessarily embedded in loud noise (neither rock concerts nor construction workers’ drilling seem to have a monopoly on theology). It is possible to “listen” to Banner’s painting and hear a soft, beautiful song emerge even from the expressionistic and stormy surface.


 


In fact, even Banner’s materials involve a complicated process that is both bold and soft.


Encaustic paintings are very different from standard oil paintings, in which the artist simply puts brush to canvas and adds marks. Encaustic, which is an ancient technique that has often been employed in a religious context, essentially involves taking wax, often beeswax, with pigments mixed into it and layering it on the canvas.


 


The painter also uses damar (sometimes called dammar gum), a resin binding agent that hardens the materials and holds them together. The wax, the brushes, the paint, and the surface must remain warm throughout the process, and the layers of paint must be close to 200 degrees to “stick” to the other layers. Given the elaborate technique, Banner not only included the song text in her work, she actually wrote it into wax.


 


The 24-piece series at Touchstone is called “I Listen with All My Heart.” In her artist’s statement, Banner says the entire series is “based on my response to being in nature and listening to music.” The series is hung together on one wall as an installation in the far corner of the gallery.

 

 



“Serious”  Encaustic on wood, 12×12.” Courtesy of Marilyn Banner.


 

 


Over e-mail, Banner elaborated on the series. “It is about connection to the earth and spirituality, as you can probably tell,” she said. “I may have written out the whole poem in there, but as I work kind of in a trance, I don’t really remember. Whatever came out of my hand is what’s in there, some buried, some visible. It was as if my heart was singing it and the words just went into the paint.” She added that “it’s one of those things that when a group sings together, you’re on another plane.”


 


Banner is not just an artist who paints music. She is also co-founder and co-director of Washington “Musica Viva,” a musical, poetic, and visual art performance series, which she began in her studio in Kensington, Maryland. She was also the regional coordinator of the national organization, No Limits for Women in the Arts, as well as a board member of the DC board of the Women’s Caucus for Art.


 


The pieces in “I Listen with All My Heart” relate to these other experiences through the inclusion of texts and references to Banner’s life, early music experience, and poetry. “Serious,” “Dance of Joy,” and “Blue Sound” all reference music directly. In “Serious,” a young girl playing a violin is so immersed in her music that she closes her eyes. The background is a mixture of cool blues and greens, and except for a few carefully placed black outline marks, it is difficult to tell where the girl ends and the background begins. Banner has also added a G-clef and musical notes in black, so the girl’s left side and left arm merge with the lines of music. Both performer and music have become one within the painting, just as they are literally fused together in wax.

 

 



“Blue Sound” 2005. Encaustic on panel, 11×14.” Courtesy of Marilyn Banner.


 

 


“Blue Sound” swaps the performer for four cellos (one in relief). Banner has “written” the words “The Sound” over two of the instruments, and about 10 scores of sheet music are visible in the background. The forms of the scores mirror the strings on the cellos, and the entire surface of the paintings seems like it could yield a sound if it were plucked or played.


 


In “Dance of Joy,” viewers can discern two musical scores, but the piece is much less literal than “Serious” or “Blue Sound.” The painting reads as a landscape, perhaps a jungle scene, with thick tree trunks and thick foliage. In the right side of the work, an outlined figure dances with head thrown back and arms raised. The figure wearing a dress, has a musical score vertically written across her body, and is perhaps a self-portrait or even a personification of music herself. As in “Serious” and “Blue Sound,” Banner’s composition in “Dance of Joy” defies conventional approaches to foreground and background. The figure encroaches on the setting, and the setting engulfs the figure.

 

 



“Dance of Joy” 2006. Encaustic on wood, 9×11.” Courtesy of Marilyn Banner.




Although Banner probably had neither Elijah nor the prophetic experience in mind when she created the series, the model of the soft voice emerging from the storm proves a good model for engaging her work, even her more “realistic” works like her other series on angels and messengers (including several versions of the burning bush), the “Song of Songs,” “The Presence of Spirit,” and “Soul Ladders.” Banner’s uses the medium to her advantage to not only metaphorically show connections between the physical and the spiritual, but also to literally bond the two together in hot wax.

 


For more information on Marilyn Banner and her work, visit her website, http://marilynbanner.com/.


 


MENACHEM WECKER welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He is a painter and writer, residing in Washington, DC.

Impressions Of Meah Shearim

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Eric Lubiynov


Through March 13


The Chassidic Art Institute


375 Kingston Avenue, Brooklyn


(718) 774-9149


 


 


         “Back in Russia most of my works were dark and grey, reflecting the mood of those days and the way they taught us to paint,” says artist Eric Lubiynov. “Only when I came to Israel my vision changed and I started to paint bright.”

 

         Born in Kalinin in 1966, Lubiynov grew up drawing with crayons like many children, but unlike his peers, he never seemed to outgrow his passion for color. His works are perhaps best viewed as “Spiritual Impressionism.”

 

         The so-called Impressionist paintings of the late 19th century accessed a different, and perhaps deeper, reality than did previous naturalistic works. However well Rembrandt’s brush captured every blade of grass and every hair in a noble Dutchman’s moustache (and surely even Rembrandt “cheated” with his technique and ignored some hairs) he was only documenting the object or figure within the frame of a fraction of second.

 

 The next instant, as the candlelight flickered or the sun’s rays shifted positions, the entire vision would have changed dramatically and become an entirely different world.

 

         Essentially, then, the art that most people consider “realistic” discloses maximum information (every hair) in about next to nothing (a fragment of a second). In his serial paintings, Claude Monet captured a wider range of reality, by tracking his visions of haystacks and water lilies as they unfolded over time in different lights.

 

 



Image 1. – Eric Lubiynov. Oil on canvas. 18 x 24


 


        


         Viewed in a variety of works from different seasons, moods and times of day, the lilies and haystacks take on a new identity that is no longer skin deep. By peeling away the external forms, Monet showed that the haystacks and lilies maintained their identities even as external stimuli (like light) changed.

 

Monet would not have referred to the souls of his haystacks and lilies, but his work did seek the immutable and essential through studying the changing and superficial.

 

         In his work at the Chassidic Art Institute (CHAI) Lubiynov portrays Meah Shearim in a manner reminiscent of Monet’s Impressionism. Surely, Lubiynov is no Monet. After all, Monet is canonized for defining Impressionism in a wizardly fashion, anticipating modern developments way ahead of his times.

 

         Impressionism is “old hat” in today’s art museums, galleries and schools, where Monet impersonators and followers are a dime a dozen. Yet, Lubiynov’s works on Meah Shearim represent a certain relevant and natural marriage of the Israeli cityscape and Impressionist palette.

 

 


Image 2. – Eric Lubiynov. Oil on canvas. 18 x 24

 

 

People who have visited or lived in Meah Shearim (literally “100 Gates,” although perhaps a misreading of Genesis 26:12) know that it is no “Safed.” Where Safed is a town literally painted blue, whose streets are full of colors from pedestrians’ dress to artisan shops, Meah Shearim appears monochromatic – at first. Yet, Lubiynov manages to discern every color of the spectrum in the streets and buildings.
 

          “The colors in the paintings are very close to the actual street scenes,” Lubiynov says. “I like to paint when it’s sunny and bright, which reflects the mood of Jerusalem.”

 

         Lubiynov also notes that his work reflects “the ordinary daily life” of Meah Shearim, which he calls “the heart of the Jewish, religious people.” He has visited Jerusalem many times since he moved to Israel from Russia in 1996 and considers it his favorite city.

 

         Image 1” (all of the CHAIworks are untitled, but I have numbered them for convenience’s sake) shows theKotelthat could easily be a collage of several different artists. In the space above the Wall, Lubiynov has rendered the foliage and sky in a pastel-colored palette, with soft, gently blended colors, with billowing yellow, purple and green clouds.

 

        



Image 3. – Eric Lubiynov. Oil on canvas. 18 x 24


 


  


         But the paint on the Wall is boldly caked upon the canvas, applied heavily with a palette knife rather than a brush. The artist has gone back into those strokes and violently scratched out the silhouettes of the individual bricks.

 

         But between the soft, cloudy paint strokes and the violent bold ones, the other forms that emerge in the Jews that gather beside the Wall to pray, and in the purple structure and brown hill that flank the Wall on either side, Lubiynov adopts a more abstract touch – not quite attacking the canvas in a manner that obliterates naturalistic form, but also not depicting objects in a strictly literal manner.

 

         Lubiynov’s people don’t quite look like human representation so much as blob-like, amorphous and anonymous, which lends the otherwise peaceful, sunny scene a somewhat more dangerous atmosphere.

 

         If “Image 1” exhibits some abstract components, “Image 2” is altogether abstract. A street scene where the viewer looks out from under an overhanging roof (perhaps through a window), the painting’s surface is thickly covered with yellows, pinks, purples, greens, blues, peaches and golds.  If Jerusalem is the “City of Gold” in Jewish songs and folklore, it is the “City of Gold and Every Other Color of the Rainbow” of Lubiynov’s palette.

 

 


Image 4. – Eric Lubiynov. Oil on canvas. 18 x 24

 

 

         Indeed, the traffic jam of colors in “Image 2″ is so dizzying and overpowering, that viewers can easily miss the black figures walking down the street, all but engulfed by the street shadows.

 

         Image 3” also hides the figures in deep black shadows. In the shadows, the otherwise cheerful yellow, blue and pink forms look more sinister and threatening. Meah Shearim, in Lubiynov’s paintings, becomes a place like Monet’s haystacks and lilies. Although cities have little inherent character – they are simply made of mundane, dead materials -their atmosphere changes with the marks people make upon them and with the changing light. The same street in Meah Shearim looks inviting and beautiful in some visions, and forbidding in others.

 

         In a fourth image, Lubiynov paints Jerusalem in earth tones of red and brown, which simultaneously evoke fire and blood, both of which plagued the Old City far too often in Jewish history.

 

         In the press material, CHAI director, Zev Markowitz, writes: “Lubiynov has the ability to see beyond the ordinary at what is timeless when gazing at a simple motif from everyday life. At the exhibit in our gallery we display oil paintings, which reflect Jewish life in Israel. These paintings are lyrical; the color is modest and in no way detracts from the main characteristic of his work.”

 

         Markowitz is quite right to call attention to Lubiynov’s colors, but they are anything but modest.

 

         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 opening March 25.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/impressions-of-meah-shearim/2007/02/28/

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