Artists’ Beit Midrash Exhibit Opening Nov. 12

Artist as Kohen:

Transmitting Holiness

Art by participants in Artists’ Beit Midrash

Judith Joseph and Jane Shapiro, co-facilitators

Curated by Judith Joseph

Choshen, by Linda Sonin

Choshen, by Linda Sonin

North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, 1175 Sheridan Rd., Highland Park, Illinois Through January 2015

Opening Reception:
Wednesday, November 12, 2014, 6:45pm
Exhibiting Artists:
Lois Barr ▪ Sam Bernstein ▪ Sylvia Dresser ▪ Nessia Frank ▪ Judith Joseph ▪ Ruti Modlin ▪ Lilach Schrag ▪ Judy Solomon ▪ Linda Carol Sonin
Leah Sosewitz ▪ Sandy Starkman

Join us for a wine & cheese reception and study session with Jane Shapiro.
Reservations are requested to Marcie Eskin at meskin@nssbethel.org or 847/432-8900×234.

To view exhibit at other times, please call NSSBE  847/432-8900 for open hours.

Ibis Ketubah

Ibis Ketubah, by Judith Joseph

Ibis Ketubah, by Judith Joseph

I love my job!  This commission gave me the challenge of creating a ketubah which had similar imagery to a previous work from 2008, which the couple really liked. (See below.)  The brides are cousins, so I wanted to be sure that, although the overall colors and imagery were similar, they were still distinctly different.  How did I do?

Doves/ Moon Ketubah, by Judith Joseph

Doves/ Moon Ketubah, by Judith Joseph

I had the privilege of making a ketubah for the sister of the Doves/ Moon Ketubah bride in 2009 (see below.)  I love it when my ketubahs become a family tradition, it is truly an honor, and fun to get to know various members of the tribe.

Mediterranean Islands Ketubah, by Judith Joseph

Mediterranean Islands Ketubah, by Judith Joseph

Sunrise Ketubah

Sunrise Ketubah; 18" x 24", acrylic on paper.  Simpler custom ketubah, digitally printed text, hand-painted decoration.

Sunrise Ketubah; 18″ x 24″, acrylic on paper. Simpler custom ketubah, digitally printed text, hand-painted decoration.

Happy New Year!

Best Wishes for a Healthy and Happy Year!

Best Wishes for a Healthy and Happy Year!

Quilts by Men

During a visit to Civil War sites in Winchester, Virginia, I learned that convalescing Confederate veterans were encouraged to work on quilts.  The wartime headquarters of Stonewall Jackson (1861-62) had such a quilt on the General’s personal bed, made by an amputee.

Traditionally women’s work, quilting was recognized for its therapeutic benefit to wounded soldiers, who were undoubtedly suffering from PTSD, as well as physical injuries.  Artists and crafters know well the meditative zone one enters while immersed in repetitive, creative work.  We forget to eat, we forget to stop working, we forget the world.

Excommunication by Quilt

In 1858, a friendship quilt was made by a group of young Quaker girls in Frederick County, Virginia.  There is a bull’s eye block (square) sewn over one of the original blocks, a lovely tulip design which is clearly visible in an x-ray photo.  This young seamstress was elided from the community, as well as the quilt, after she committed the sin of marrying outside of her faith.

It is notable that the design chosen to blot out her design, which would be a permanent reminder to the quilt’s owner of the painful breach, was a bull’s eye, a rather hostile mark.

The quilt was in the estate of the Hollingsworth family, who left England because of religious intolerance towards Quakers.  Their home, “Abram’s Dream,” was the first house in Winchester, Virginia.  It had a hinged wall in the parlor to permit enlargement of the space for Quaker meetings.

Golden Jerusalem Ketubah

Golden Jerusalem Ketubah, 2014, egg tempera/ sumi ink on ragboard, 18" x 24".

Golden Jerusalem Ketubah, 2014, egg tempera/ sumi ink on ragboard, 18″ x 24″.

Marc Chagall’s epic mosaic, “The Four Seasons”, was an inspiration for this ketubah.  Jennifer and Justin live in Chicago and chose to include their home city as well as the golden city of Jerusalem.

Have you seen “The Four Seasons”?  We are so fortunate to have it here in Chicago, at 10 S. Dearborn, next to the Chase Tower, at Monroe St.

Casting Love Ketubah

Casting Love Ketubah, sumi ink and egg tempera on ragboard, 18" square, 2014

Casting Love Ketubah, sumi ink and egg tempera on ragboard, 18″ square, 2014

I enjoyed transforming the story of a couple, Anna and Andrew, into visual motives for this ketubah (Jewish illustrated marriage contract).  Andrew works in his family’s steel business.   Casting steel is a wonderful metaphor for creating a new, strong relationship.  Thus, the foundation of this design is the glowing forge, where a steelworker is pouring molten metal into the mold of a heart.  The forge also symbolizes the hearth, source of warmth and sustenance in the home.

Extending the “building” metaphor, reading counter-clockwise from the bottom, there are steel girders, followed by a pair of bower birds.  The male of this species creates an elaborate nest, which he decorates with colorful bits of paper and plastic, in hopes of wooing a mate.  So romantic!

Above the birds is a huppah, symbol of the home Anna and Andrew will create together.  Flying above the jasmine and hibiscus flowers is a hawk, a personal symbol for them.  Chicago’s majestic skyline at sunset surmounts the circle.  Continuing the circular motif are golden rings:  wedding bands, symbols of eternal love. Here they double as microscope lenses, through which we see slides of healthy breast and cervical tissue.  This represents Anna’s profession as a medical doctor, specializing in women’s health.

Returning to the personal narrative of Anna and Andrew, the circle is completed with a Lake Michigan sunset, as seen from the eastern shore, where they go to relax and unwind.

Finding a way to incorporate such disparate elements as the steel industry and gynecology was a wonderful challenge!  Anna and Andrew gave me free rein, which helped me fulfill the commission while allowing my creative stream to flow, unimpeded.

Raven Ketubah

For Melissa and Andrew, who met at U-Maryland, and love the Ravens:

Raven Ketubah, 2014

Raven Ketubah, 2014

Click here for more information.

Really Big Woodcut Prints

Sometimes invitations that appear in my inbox are too tantalizing to hit “delete”.  About six months ago, I received a “Call For Artists” for an event called “Really Big Prints” in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.  It was described as an opportunity to create a huge (3’x 5′) woodcut print and have it printed by a steamroller!

steamroller

The thought of seeing a steamroller re-purposed as a press to create huge works of art was irresistible.  Being inexperienced as a woodcut artist, naturally, I jumped at the chance(!)  I conferred with my experts, who were generous with their knowledge and time:  Ellen Holtzblatt, who makes exquisite woodcuts; and Alex, the owner of McClain’s Printmaking Supplies.

The event requests that each artist (there will be 45 working over 5 days) create an edition of 4-5 prints and donate one copy to the Rahr-West Art Museum in Manitowoc.

I did the drawing and carving in 3 1/2 days.  My cutting marks improved as I got a feel for the tools, and gained some fluidity and expressiveness.  The final day I started at 10 a.m. and finished at 8 p.m., and didn’t feel the day pass by.  Carving is wonderfully addictive; what a joy to lose myself in work that way, and have the calluses on my hands to show for it.

I will post again after the event, with photos and videos.