Artist’s Statement

 

In my early years as an artist, Judaism barely influenced my artwork.

It was not until the middle seventies when I  saw examples of Ketubot and paper cut mizrach,  I realized that an entire way of visualizing Judaism existed. What so dazzled me  were the works in cut paper from Poland, Italy and Persia. I was amazed at the detail and the creative possibilities of transforming a simple piece of paper into a work of art. That Jews had mastered this art form in the service of Hiddur Mitzvah (creating an object that is a beautiful way of glorifying God) and had been involved in this folk tradition for hundreds of years was a revelation. I had seen a way to merge the artist and the Jew. I began to search through texts, through the Bible and prayer for visual imagery. Through that search I began to discover how rich and full these writings were. I wanted to communicate that wealth by releasing the words, through my art, into pictorial space.

My visit coincided with the Havurah movement that stressed the personal connection to observing Judaism through the creation of handcrafted Judaic ritual objects. Energized, I wanted to try paper cutting. Therefore, with pen knife in hand, I started to cut and explore the two dimensional world of cut paper. I was hooked.

My interest in Jewish art was also motivated by my imminent marriage. I wanted to try my hand at Hebrew calligraphy and manuscript illumination (the painting of decorative borders around calligraphic writing) by making my own Ketubah (Jewish marriage contract).My first attempt was shamefully klutzy but it motivated me to improve my skill through the examination of  old ketubot. This process was a lesson in anthropology and religious history, a window into how Jews, a wandering people, adapted to new countries and how Judaism evolved through the decades. I hope that my work is the next link in the chain of my history and heritage.

In 2000, I was given the opportunity to design a set of stained glass windows, a perpetually illuminated light call the “Ner Tamid”, and collaborate on the design of a Menorah- the seven branched candelabra – for the chapel at the  Russ Berrie Jewish Home for Living, in Rockleigh , New Jersey. This experience enabled me to expand my artistic vocabulary and gain a new appreciation for the work of artisans who transform the elements of fire, sand and metal into glorious works of art. I was also given the opportunity to design Torah covers and Ark curtains and that introduced me to a new set of challenges — working with fabric.  I am fortunate to have been able to work with talented craftsmen and women who enabled me to make real my artistic designs.

My expressive work -paintings, 3-D constructions and drawings deal with the dynamic balance between what is known and what is mysterious. I do this by exploring opposites such as negative and positive space, complementary colors or through an odd juxtaposition of images.  I use the color spectrum as a vehicle through which the mysterious makes itself visible. For, if pure white light that we do not see, represents a spiritual force we cannot explain, then  the colors of the spectrum are the way that this force is revealed to us.

I like to address the idea that negative spaces are infused with meanings that are as important as positive space. Doing works in cut paper is one way I speak to this. The process is subtractive and so I have to think a few steps ahead. Even with planning, what comes out when I cut away the background is a delightful surprise. The simplicity, flexibility and strength of paper enables me to transform this material into two and three dimensional art forms with a range of expression that is limitless. Thus the craft of building and forming merges with the expression of ideas.