A stunning glass installation in the lobby of Mayerson Hall is the first work of art that greets visitors upon arriving at the Skirball Museum. Comprised of 190 glass pieces suspended from stainless steel threads, the work evokes a variety of responses. Are these tears, icicles, or vessels? Are the colors warm or cool? Does it make you happy or sad? Is it fragile or strong?
Tears of Hope, Tears of Joy was commissioned as a gift to the Skirball Museum by Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson in honor of Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk, who served as president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion from 1971 to 1995. Living and working in Cincinnati from 1993 to the early 2000s, artist Joel Otterson has been making sculpture for the past 30 years in a variety of materials including copper pipe, pottery and glass, cast metal and bronze. Otterson lives and works today in Los Angeles.
Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk (1930—2009) was 8 years old in early November of 1938, living in the German town of Oberwesel. The day after the anti-Jewish pogrom Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), his grandfather gave him shreds of a Torah scroll that had been desecrated and thrown into a river by the Nazis, telling the boy that “one day we will put them together again.” Gottschalk was able to immigrate to America in 1939, after he and his family endured further anti-Semitic incidents. He would lose dozens of family members in the Holocaust, and he maintained a passionate commitment to the preservation of the Jewish religion and Jewish identify throughout his life.
Tears, icicles, vessels? Warm or cool? Happy or sad? Fragile or strong? Every visitor will make his or her own decision when encountering and engaging with this fitting tribute to a rabbi who devoted his life to the Jewish people and humanity.
NOTE: Tears of Hope, Tears of Joy was recently disassembled and each glass piece was individually cleaned during a renovation of the ceiling of the lobby of Mayerson Hall. A short video documenting the removal and replacement of the glass installation will soon be available at www.huc.edu/research/museums/skirball-museum-Cincinnati.