Category Archives: things that work

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.

Letterforms prominent in “Fractured Yet Rising” exhibit at ARC Gallery

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“Fractured Yet Rising” is a juried multi-media exhibition of works on the subject of violence against women.  In addition to works submitted by artists, the artist-members of ARC, a women’s co-op gallery, worked with residents of a domestic violence shelter on collaborative pieces, giving voice to their experiences.

Dates:  March 5-29, 2014.  Details here.

Judith Joseph Solo Exhibit in New York

The Jewish Art Salon and the Kraft Center present:  Get Lucky:  Amulets and Ketubah Art by Judith Joseph.

amulet_water


 Art Exhibit curated by organized by the Jewish Art Salon.

Contact: Yona Verwer jewishartsalon@gmail.com  917-447-8567

Location: The Columbia / Barnard Kraft Center, 606 West 115th Street, New York, NY 10025

Date: Thursday April 18, 2013

6 – 7 PM Opening Reception, Free & Open to the Public

7 – 8 PM Panel Discussion Still, Small Voice in a Noisy World: Jewish Heritage and Contemporary Art. Panelists: Judith Joseph, Alison Kruvant and Isaac Peterson, moderated by Buzz Slutzky.

Exhibit Hours: April 18 – May 20, Sunday – Thursday 9-8, Friday 9-1.

The art of Judith Joseph springs from illuminated manuscripts:  decorated, hand-written texts.  She loves miniature medieval illustrations with their quirky, often bizarre imagery that ranges from holy inspiration to bawdy violence.  Her love of letters encompasses both their calligraphic form and the story they tell.

She started making ketubahs (hand-written, decorated Jewish marriage contracts) at the age of 17, beginning a journey with this art form that has lasted decades and produced some 500 commissioned, original works.  She has grown up with the ketubah, and it has grown with her.

Judith’s paintings often contain Hebrew lettering.  Her series of hamsa (amulet) paintings began when she painted one for each of her three adult sons, when they moved far from home. She used unstretched canvas, so the paintings could be easily rolled and transported from place to place. She used thehamsa symbol: a hand blocking the evil eye, an ancient image found in Mediterranean countries.  The hamsa is often worn during childbirth. 

Judith believes in the power of images as a way to focus our intent and will, and the power of words to guide us. Each hamsa image is encircled with a ribbon containing Hebrew inscriptions of the names of archangels (Michael, Raphael, Yuriel, Uzziel, Ezriel, etc.) The letters create a dynamic, dancing border, stand-ins for human beings, as we are expected to create a “fence around the Torah.” (Pirke Avot, 1.1)

More project info:

Jewish Art Salon (with web images): http://www.jewishartsalon.com/2013/03/get-lucky-amulets-and-ketubah-art-by.html

Directions: #1 Train to 116 St, Buses M4, M5, M104 to 116 St. M60 Bus from 125 St Metro-North.

606 West 115th Street, just west off Broadway.

The Jewish Art Salon is a global community of artists and art professionals. It organizes exhibitions, panel discussions and programming with leading international artists and scholars, in order to create an appreciation for innovative Jewish art in the contemporary art world.

http://jewishartsalon.com

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Yona VerwerPresident, Jewish ART Salon
http://jewishartsalon.com

Re-Drawing the Map of the Art World

In her NY Times review of Saul Steinberg:  A Biography, by Deirdre Bair, Deborah Solomon reminds us that Steinberg was most famous for his “View of the World From 9th Avenue”, a Manhattan-centric remapping of the world.

Steinberg was a prolific cartoonist for The New Yorker.  In addition, his drawings and sculptures were shown in high-brow galleries and museums, and prized by art collectors.

Solomon, who authored a forthcoming biography of Norman Rockwell, has good reason to be well-versed on the topic of “fine art” vs. “illustration”.  About Steinberg, she comments:  “In his heyday, art critics butted heads over whether his drawings should be considered cartooning, illustration or museum-worthy art.  By now such attempts at classification seem beside the point.  Most of us do not believe that an invisible velvet rope separates museum art from magazine art, or that a painting hanging at the Museum of Modern Art is automatically superior in aesthetic terms to a children’s book illustration.  The truth is that any genre can produce works of enduring power” (italics mine.)

Solomon cites an anecdote from the biography that mirrors this pedestal-busting view of art:  “(Steinberg) once described Picasso, after visiting him at his villa outside Cannes, as ‘an old Jewish man in the Florida sun– all torso and shorts.’”

What do you think?  Is there an important distinction between illustration and fine art?  Does it matter?

The Bridge Between Health and Disease

Please come and see my Bridge Between Health and Disease.   It was commissioned by the Art Center, Highland Park, for the Voices and Visions Exhibit, an uplifting and inspiring juried show (opening reception tomorrow, 9-30-11.)

The Bridge Between Health and Disease, The Art Center, Highland Park, Illinois

From ABC- Channel 7 News blog:

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, The Art Center in Highland Park holds an art exhibit that honors women and their families impacted by breast or ovarian cancers.

In addition to 50 works of art on display, there is also a wall of statements written by women from across the country who have been affected by cancer. Caren Helene Rudman, an artist and curator of the exhibit, says the purpose of the exhibit is to empower people who live on the bridge between health and disease.

The Art Center (TAC) in Highland Park is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to education in the contemporary visual arts through its teaching, outreach, events and gallery exhibitions. TAC brings the benefits of visual expression to all sectors of the community.

Voices and Visions: Standing on the Bridge between Health and Disease
September 30 – October 30, 2011
Opening Reception: Friday, September 30th from 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Free Admission to Exhibit

The Art Center Highland Park
1957 Sheridan Rd.
Highland Park, IL
(847) 432-1888
theartcenterhp.org/voices-and-visions

“Knittivists” Repairing The World

There is a wonderful project called “Tikkun Tree”, which is organizing fiber artists to contribute knitted, crocheted, embroidered and sewn leaves and doves to a fiber olive tree.  The tree will be a symbol of peace and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.  It is inspired by  “the courageous and remarkable efforts of Jewish and Palestinian citizens and activists in Israel and Diaspora who have been working toward peaceful coexistence” and also by “the many recent knittivist community needlework projects, including the pink tank, knitnotwar 1,0o0 Project , Knit a River, and the Red Sweater Project“.

I can embroider and sew, I think it will be fun to foliate!  If you want to participate, send your leaves to:

The TikkunTree Project
P.O. Box 2088
Philadelphia, PA 19103

I love to paint olive trees.  Here are some works which include olive trees from my portfolio:

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Openlands Preserves Nature and Presents Art

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When Fort Sheridan was developed as a residential community, a grant enabled the creation of the Openlands Nature Preserve.  This project is a restoration and preservation of one of the last remaining ravine and bluff ecosystems in the metropolitan region.  There are beautiful walkways, complemented by original, site-specific works of art.

Interpretive signs illuminate the environment and the art with poetry by Lisa Roberts, who curated the art selections.  The works are by Kate Friedman (Reading The Landscape), Vivian Visser (a driftwood installation called Erode), Ginny Sykes (a mixed-media mural on an underpass called Arc of Nature), Sharon Bladholm (cast bronze/resign plaques on a stone wall called Soil:  Alive With Life) and Olivia Petrides (painted obelisks called Leaf and Earthbark Prisms).

The ravine walk is wonderful, a gentle incline down to a beautiful beach.  The art is a perfect complement to the environment.  It serves an educational function while enhancing our experience of the beauty and complexity of nature, and our place in it.

Petrides’ striped prisms reminded me of the work of artist Kerry Hirth.  She is a synasthetic artist, which means that she interprets sound as color.  She created a work called Birds Lost from a Giant Sequoia Forest During Fifty Years (pastel on canvas, 12″ X 48″).  She explains that “This painting begins at the deep roots of a sequoia forest and moves up the trees toward the treetops and then further up the mountainside to a pine forest and ultimately to the sky. Between the roots and the sky, there are seven distinct sections. Each section represents a species of bird that once lived in the forest but no longer does as a result of habitat destruction. The sections are defined by the way they reflect the distinct plumage of each bird.”

"Birds Lost", by Kerry Hirth

Sometimes art as “earthworks” is a destruction or disruption of the natural environment in which it is placed.  Not in this case.  I look forward to returning to the Openlands Preserve and spending more time with the art, particularly the poetry that accompanies each visual art piece on a trail marker.

Creative Collaboration As It Should Be

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The current exhibit at Fill In The Blank Gallery, entitled “Habitual Growth”, is an example of a fully integrated, successful collaboration by three talented artists:  Alexis Ortiz, Julia Gootzeit and Katie Schofield.  Together, they created an environment that is so symbiotic, all the objects seem to just have grown in the gallery.  This is no small feat, considering the materials used:  ceramic vessels, nest-like shapes crocheted from plastic grocery bags, cascades of keys, little dyed, felted balls, stripes of soil and ristras of red ceramic carroty thingies.

The artists recycle, re-use, re-purpose.  All of the recycled objects bring their own stories to the table, and the artists cast them in a new context, layering different perspectives.  The result is a rich, fresh, intriguing mix that comes together incredibly well.  The exhibit will be up at 5038 N. Lincoln Avenue until Aug. 20.  It’s well worth a visit– check the gallery website for hours.

I am preparing for a two-person show next spring with artist Harriet Kohn, at PerficalSense Studio.  We discussed the idea of whether  to collaborate on work together, or just show our independent, though complementary, work.  Seeing the seamless collaboration created by Alexis, Julia and Katie raised the bar for us.  Now we have to decide:  pas de deux,  or ensemble?  This is where my inner elementary school teacher is saying, ” Judy, you’re not a team player.”  We’ll see what happens!

Re-Purposing Hubcaps for Art

"Birth of Earth", re-purposed hubcap art by Judith Joseph for Landfill Art Project

Back in December of 2008, artist and gallery owner Ken Marquis contacted me and asked me to participate in the “Landfill Project”.  At the time, he had over 100 international artists on board; by now, the project has grown to over 800 artists!

The idea was to salvage hubcaps, clean them up and give them to artists to have their creative way with them.  I’ll never forget the day my hubcap arrived in the mail.  There was much laughter in my house, as I pulled it from the box and tried to explain to my family that it was going to be an art piece.

I pulled together a scrap of silk I had hand-painted as an experiment, brass foil and wire, and went to work.  The silk looked, to me, like the roiling soup of primordial creation, at the beginning of the universe.  So, I thought about Earth being born, like a baby, gasping for its first breath, emerging from the amniotic caul.  I thought of my mother, who emerged from birth wearing her birth caul “like an undershirt”, which her father proclaimed to be a sign of good luck.  (He was right; so far, at age 84, she’s had a very lucky, happy life.  I can only wish good luck to our Mother Earth, who could use some!)

Ken Marquis’ idea sounded kind of crazy at first, but if you peruse the gallery of his hupcap art, you will be amazed at the inventiveness of artists from around the world, in re-imagining these metal disks.  The take-away message for me is, why don’t we approach all of our environmental problems with this kind of creative energy?

Landfill Art was just profiled in an AP article:  Hubcaps As Canvas:  Artists Turn Junk Into Jewels (where you can see my hubcap in slide #4).   Ken needs 150 more professional artists for the project– see application and the complete “Gallery of Metal Canvases” at the Landfill Art website.

“When This You See, Remember Me…”

In an antique store in Woodruff, Wisconsin, I came across a little album of autographs.  It had a well-worn velvet cover, and its contents told me that it was the property of Emelia Daw (nee Buchert), who received it in 1890 at the age of 15 years.  The last signature is in 1930, when Mrs. Daw (as she is addressed in the later  salutations) would have been 55 years old… the same age I am now.

All of the signers wrote “Dear Emelia (or Mrs. Daw)”, followed by a formulaic inscription.  Her “friend and teacher”, Marguerite Hill, wrote:

“Premeditate your speeches, words once flown

Are in the hearer’s power and not your own.”

On May 19th, 1898, Otto Brandt wrote, with creative spelling:  “Dear Emilie, If you love me as I love you know knife can cut our love in to.”

The pages are signed “Your Friend”, “Your brother”, “From Your Dear Melda” (her daughter, who signed twice).  The earliest signers wrote in German, so I can’t vouch for the contents, but I think it’s safe to assume they followed the convention of the day and wrote well-used tropes.  One of my favorite pages is from Emilia’s sister, who wrote in 1897:

“Sister Emelia,

The time is swiftly passing by,

When we must bid adieu,

We know not when we meet again,

So these lines I leave with you.”

In the corner margin, she wrote:  “Remember the pantry jokes”.  Salt in the sugar bowl?  What mischief did they cook up?!

I brought the album to the Chicago Botanic Garden, where I am teaching a class in calligraphy.  My students were fascinated with the beauty of the penmanship.  The writers used quill-shaped pens dipped in ink bottles, similar to the ones we use in class.  As the years went along, the writing became less formal, resembling Palmer cursive hand-writing.  One imagines that the manner of dress and speech also became less formal, as these German immigrants adjusted to their life in America and things became more modern.  Today, we can compose and publish with no pen, no paper, and no pants on.

They had names like Alma, Anna, Elsie, Hermann, Otto, Hazel.  They came from Wisconsin towns called Bancroft, Ellington, Hortonville, Greenville, Washburn, Appleton, Watertown and Stevens Point.  I think Emelia came from Hortonville, which made me laugh, because Hortonville was always my family’s synonym for “Nowhere” after our car broke down there on a family road-trip.

Emelia cherished this little album for at least 40 years.  As her friends married, she went back to their autograph page and inscribed it with their wedding date (e.g., Henry Riesenweber,  Ellington, March 11, 1891; married 13 Oct., 1901.)

Each of the inscriptions, with its ornate calligraphy or pencilled scrawl, conjure up a personality.  One can almost hear their voices.  As a person who embraces the fluidity and ease of technology, I find that calligraphy brings a slow pace and tactile quality to writing that is all but lost today.  In the careful forming of letters, the scratch of pen on paper, the  setting-up of ink between two scored lines from a metal pen, the content of the inscription (whether it be a saccharin couplet in an autograph book or a literary quotation) becomes a separate concern.  For Emelia’s friends, their inscription showed their devotion; writing was their gift.

I am learning Copperplate, a very formal and difficult style of calligraphy.  Here is my practice piece:

It humbles me that Marguerite Hill, Emelia’s “friend and teacher”, wrote better than I do, and she wrote that way ALL THE TIME.