Ora Lerman: I Gave You My Song
A memorial retrospective
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum
One West 4th Street (between Broadway and Mercer Street), Manhattan
September 13, 2001-December 16, 2001
Ora Lerman: I Gave You My Song, a memorial retrospective exhibition
presenting the life's work of the celebrated artist Ora Lerman,
will be on view at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of
Religion Museum from September 13-December 16, 2001. The daughter
of Eastern European Jews who settled in Campbellsville, Kentucky,
Lerman's radiant paintings, sculpture, and works on paper combine
childhood fantasies with adult musings on life. Employing an allegorical,
narrative style, Lerman connects family stories, textual inscriptions,
and a vivid imagination to express a powerful celebration of life.
Ora Lerman lived and traveled throughout the world and incorporated
these experiences into her art. She grew up in Kentucky and later
lived in New York. With an abstract expressionist background and
formalist training, she went to Japan on a Fulbright Scholarship
where she studied calligraphy and sumi-ye (another ink tradition).
Japanese art influenced her to create "layers of narrative symbolism"
in her work. Consequently, she returned to New York where she worked
in an realistic mode and began to integrate sentences into the borders
of her paintings – adding these Japanese-influenced layers of meaning
to her work.
Lerman painted from figures that she collected from around the
world, and from objects she created out of Fome-Cor. She traveled
to Mexico, the former Soviet Union, and received a Reader's Digest
six-month grant to work at Monet's garden in Giverny, France. She
"found this to be a good context to develop images of Eden..." and
developed symbols of an exiled Eve and the land of exile. Later
she went to India to further her work on Eve and the Garden of Eden.
She designated the Indian Tree Goddess figure "Yakshi" as "another
face of Eve." She then came full circle by bringing the Tree Goddess
to New York, which she viewed as a colorless land. Her Tree Goddess
brought color and was a "greening influence" on New York, and ultimately
became "the synthesizer of [her] rural-urban, East-West dual history."
Lerman received her B.A. in Fine Arts from Antioch College and
an M.F.A. in Painting from the Pratt Institute Graduate School in
Fine Arts. Her work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group
exhibitions, which include solo shows at the Museum of Contemporary
Art in Sao Paulo,
Brazil, the Poulain Museum in Vernon, France, and Bernice Steinbaum
in New York City, as well as group exhibitions at the Museum of
Modern Art and the Jewish Museum in New York. Her work is included
in many permanent collections, including the Museum of Modern Art,
the Whitney Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, the Brooklyn Museum,
and the Jewish Museum in New York. The recipient of many awards
including the National Endowment for the Arts Mid Atlantic Art Foundation
Regional Fellowship, she was a Full Professor of Art at the State
University of New York in Suffolk, and also taught and lectured
at many other universities.
Laura Kruger, Curator of the HUC-JIR Museum, noted: "Ora Lerman
uses narrative visual effects and text to capture her childhood
memories and to interpret the deeper meanings inherent in these
rememberances. The authenticity of her work is based on her family
life in rural Kentucky during the early 1940's. She created a personal
visual language to evoke the unknown parts of her heritage. Celebration
of life is the hallmark of Lerman's work and we are pleased to continue
the tradition of her memory."
Catalog with color illustrations and essays by Margaret Mathews
Berenson, Ann Sutherland Harris, Joan Marter, and Sabra Moore is
Organized in conjunction with the exhibition:
Women and Narrative Art: Expressions of the Self
Thursday, October 18, 2001 at 6:30 pm
Moderator: Joan Marter, art critic, Professor of Art History, Rutgers
Panel: Corinne Robins, art critic, poet; Julie Hefferman, artist;
Dotty Attie, artist; Selina Trieff, artist
Admission to the HUC-JIR Museum is free.
Monday-Thursday, 9 am - 6 pm; Friday, 9 am - 3 pm; Selected Sundays,
10 am - 2 pm: September 16; October 14, 28; November 11; December
For information/group tours, please call 212-824-2205.