Category Archives: art for peace

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“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.

Free Yourself: It’s Passover!

May this Passover bring freedom and redemption to all who are enslaved.  May we find ways to free ourselves from the constricts of mind and attitude that bind us.  May we be open to new ways of solving the problems that face our world.

“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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

The Cost of Being an Artist

A few months ago (Feb. 7, 2010), I wrote about The Owing Project, my interactive art work about owing and debt.  I have been working hard on creating objects that express my feelings on this subject, and soon they will be installed at ARC Gallery in Chicago for my solo exhibition.

One of the things that I think about as I work is, quite literally, the cost.  I have to work for a living, and it makes me uneasy to take time away from my commissioned works (Ketubot, classes, etc.) to put so much time and effort into an installation.  The exhibit will include some paintings that can be purchased, as well as inexpensive prints of two of the paintings that will be available for sale at the desk.  But, most of the work is site-specific and not conceived for market.

I am haunted, as a person who lives in the world, by the specter of debt and owing that hangs over so many of us and indeed, our nation and our global economy.  I am conscious, as a responsible adult, of the expenditures for paint, chicken wire, auction paddles, cloth and all the motley materials I used to create larger-than-life figures, murals, etc.  So, I balance my work on this project with my work that pays the bills.

Why, you may ask, does an artist do this kind of work?  Because value cannot always be measured in dollars and cents.  There is a cost to always thinking of monetary value and disregarding spiritual and creative riches.  As my lefty compadres back in college protest marches used to say, “Give us bread, but give us roses!”  My view of socialist solutions to the problems of the world has gone from wine to vinegar, but I still hold to that principle.  And, from a pragmatic viewpoint, doing this work brings attention to all the work I do, and also sharpens my skills and expertise.

As I struggle to complete works that are outside my usual media (have you ever tried to work with chicken wire?!), I have found a remarkable synthesis of all the various elements of my creative life.  Indeed, this was the goal.  It has finally come together, and I can see the common threads stitching together all the things that I do.  So, I go forward knowing that all of my work will be enhanced, whether it is a larger-than-life effigy meant to scare myself (and you, hopefully) so you can feel the panic of owing as you enter the gallery, or the next Ketubah I will paint or class I will teach.  The bottom line is:  save your receipts, but don’t overlook the intangible values of personal growth and creatively connecting with the world.

 I hope you will come and play in my dystopia!  The Owing Project opens at ARC Gallery on July 21.  The opening reception is Friday, July 23, 6-9 p.m. , and the show closes Aug. 14.  The Owing Project is endorsed by the Center For Tax and Budget Accountability, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to “identify and analyze issues, develop policy options, and promote fair, efficient and progressive tax, spending and economic policies that improve the well-being of low and moderate income families in Illinois.” 

What debts do you owe?  What do you owe society?  What does the world owe you?  I shot these photos when I encountered a Tea Party protest in Redlands, California on April 15, 2010 (tax day).  I don’t know who they think paid for the sidewalks they were standing on, but last I checked, it was the tax-payers.



Drum Circle

Drum Circle, Meridian Hill Park, Washington, D.C.

My son, Cameron, lives in Washington, D.C. As a happily-employed but modestly-paid young journalist, he is keen on enjoying any free entertainment he can find in our nation’s capitol. When we visited him recently, Washington was in full bloom with cherry blossoms and spring-breakers.   Avoiding the crush of tourists on the Mall, he took us around the city neighborhoods.

 On Sunday, we enjoyed a 50-some year tradition: the drum circle at Meridian Hill Park. Cam is a Sunday-park kind of guy. When we visited him in Madrid during a semester abroad, we spent a leisurely day amidst the dozing and picnicking families in Retiro Park. Our destination that day was a drum circle, but it didn’t materialize. At the time, I was game for anything Cam suggested, but I didn’t understand the appeal.

On Sunday, a warm cherry-blossom bedecked Sunday in April in our nation’s capitol, I got the idea.  The circle was big, formed by drummers seated on two low facing walls.  Judging from appearances (and flag stickers on the drums), they were African-American, Afro-Caribbean, Cuban, northern European, and variations of vanilla Americans.  There was a toddler banging on a tom and elderly gentlemen, and everything in between. Most of the drummers were men, but I saw a slender, elegant woman beating on twin drums that echoed her elongated, graceful shape.

Drummer, Meridian Park

At first, I circled around, getting different views of the drummers, checking out the people and the equipment. After awhile, I settled down to a comfortable spot on a wall, and relaxed into the sound.  There was a leader who set the rhythm, and the others fell in. Every once in awhile, when the energy started to build, he called out, “Give it all you got!” Words to live by, I thought.

Drum Circle, Meridian Hill Park, Washington, D.C.

It was interesting how, subtly, the rhythm and tempo would change. A beat would go out and the group would respond, support, endorse. The sound was complex, hypnotic. I tried to pay attention to the sounds made by individual drummers, and it seemed that some of them were incredibly complex while others were simple, faithful beat-keepers. I realized that even a non-musician like me could play along and join the stream of sound. I stopped concentrating, let the sound wash over me, and it was relaxing, reviving.

I was fascinated by the discreet hiearchy of the drum circle.  There was natural leadership, by the skilled and the senior, but all were accepted without comment or question.  Changes happened subtly and naturally, without argument or discussion:  organically, like a school of fish changing direction all at once.  It occurred to me that the leaders of all nations in conflict should be forced to meet and drum, for days, weeks, without words, and find a way to their common heartbeat.  Perhaps moving in concert, surrendering to a mantra of drumbeats, would help people feel unity instead of division.  The drumbeat doesn’t have to be a march to war.