Ruth Weisberg: The Open Door
Drawings for Reform Movement's New Haggadah
On View at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum
February 28-June 28, 2002
One West 4th Street (Between Broadway and Mercer Street), Manhattan
Ruth Weisberg: The Open Door Haggadah, an
exhibition of drawings by renowned artist Ruth Weisberg for the
Reform Movement's new Haggadah, will be on view at the Hebrew Union
College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum from February 28 through
June 28. Presented in conjunction with the publication of The Open
Door, A New Haggadah, edited by Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell (Central Conference
of American Rabbis Press), this exhibition of 35 drawings and monotypes
illustrates the Biblical story of the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt.
This new Haggadah will be read on Passover as part of the seder
meal, when according to Jewish tradition, all Jews are required
to recount the story of the exodus which led the Jews from Egyptian
slavery to freedom over 3000 years ago. With sensitivity to the
gender-inclusive text in this version of the Haggadah, Weisberg
depicts figurative, humanist works which invite the emotional connection
of the viewer. Weisberg wants her work to "extend an invitation
to enter in and to reenact our story and deepen the experience of
seeing ourselves as if we also came out of Egypt."
Weisberg's drawings express the spiritual and narrative dimensions
of traditional and innovative Jewish text. Her Jewish studies helped
inspire this work. She noted: "I have learned in my efforts to create
art that the traditions of Jewish commentary and midrashic interpretation
are valuable tools for the artist as well as the scholar. My own
work has been informed by study with many inspiring teachers and
rabbis -- first among them, Rabbi Laura Geller. Jewish study has
helped me go beyond an art based on the superficial manipulation
of symbols to a more profound engagement with our distinctive Jewish
ways of knowing and understanding."
Her drawings begin depicting the Exodus with a view of a full
moon in Egypt and progress to a peaceful view of Jerusalem. She
includes scenes from the story that had not been depicted in a Haggadah
before to emphasize their importance, such as the role of the Hebrew
midwives Shifra and Puah. Art historian Donald Kuspit praises the
"idealized realism" and thus the spiritual aspects of Weisberg's
work: "Perhaps the integration of the ideal and the actual can only
occur through divine intervention, as Weisberg's art, and Passover,
Jean Bloch Rosensaft, Exhibitions Director, noted, "The Haggadah
has the longest and richest history of any illustrated Jewish text.
For centuries, artists and scribes have adorned this text in fulfillment
of ‘chiddur mitzvah' - the beautification of Jewish ritual objects
which enhance the fulfillment of Jewish ceremonial traditions. Weisberg's
illustrations for the newest publication of this traditional and
innovative text reflect an integration of historical knowledge of
Haggadot, a sensitivity to the text, and an aesthetic relationship
among the drawings themselves." In this exhibition, Weisberg's drawings
are accompanied by the related texts of The Open Door Haggadah,
demonstrating how her art is a true partner in drawing out the spiritual
and narrative dimensions of this contemporary Haggadah's text.
Weisberg, the Dean of Fine Arts at the University of Southern
California, works primarily in painting, drawing, monotypes, and
large-scale installations. Her work has been exhibited in over 70
solo and 160 group exhibitions and is part of 50 major museum and
university collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art
(New York), The National Gallery (Washington, D.C.), Biblioteca
Nazionale of France (Paris), Whitney Museum of American Art (New
York), and The Norwegian National Museum (Oslo). Having been honored
as a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome and a Senior
Research Fulbright recipient for Italy, Weisberg has also received
many awards, including the College Art Association Distinguished
Teaching of Art Award.
Opening Reception: Thursday, March 14, 5:30-8:00 pm
Program: Wednesday, March 20, 6:00-8:30 pm
"Opening the Door: When Text and Art Embrace"
Exhibition tour and study session with Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell and
Admission to Museum: Free
Museum Hours: Monday-Thursday, 9 am - 5 pm; Friday, 9 am - 3 pm;
Selected Sundays, 10 am - 2 pm: April 14 and 28.
Tours/Information: (212) 824-2205
The exhibition is accompanied by the publication, The Open
Door Haggadah (CCAR Press, 2002).