Seventy artists explore human connections shaped by genetics, proximity, interests, and shared destiny in “Relative Relations,” on view at the Dr. Bernard Heller Museum at HUC-JIR/New York through June 2020.
Curator Laura Kruger explains, “This exhibition highlights the connections that provide for the amazing melding of the human race, an ever-widening network of interests, talents, commitment, and broadening diversity.”
Rabbi Andrea Weiss, Ph.D., Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Provost, says, “The Hebrew Bible offers one word that unifies the sundry relationships highlighted in this exhibition: chesed. While sometimes translated as “love,” “kindness,” or “mercy,” it proves challenging to capture in English the various nuances of this important biblical word. Chesed is a covenantal term, one that refers to the generous and compassionate things we do for others because we are connected to one another in some type of meaningful relationship.”
Director Jean Bloch Rosensaft noted, “Relative Relationships” represents the Dr. Bernard Heller Museum’s mission to present exhibitions that explore Jewish experience, values, and history and have universal relevance. The ethnic and religious diversity of the seventy artists in this exhibition find common ground in their expression of the essence of human connections.”
Rabbi David Adelson, Dean of HUC-JIR/New York, stated, “The unity amid diversity represented in “Relative Relations” is exactly the message we need to hear in this moment in our nation’s and world’s history.”
The Hebrew Bible serves as a point of inspiration for several contemporary artists in the exhibition. Barbara Hines offers a contemporary spin in her depiction of Joseph in his coat of many colors taking a ‘selfie’ of himself with his brothers in “Spotlight on Joseph.” Lionel Picker describes the psychological complexity of the reunited siblings in “Joseph Reveals Himself.” Richard McBee’s “Jacob’s Blessing” reveals the rifts within this patriarch’s dysfunctional family. Mark Podwal captures the magical moment when Pharoah’s daughter rescued Moses from the bull rushes.
Contemporary family relationships are expressed through a broad range of media. The primal relationship between mother and child can be seen in Will Barnet’s linear etching, Reuven Rubin’s pastel/watercolor, Mark Bergash’s gelatin silver print portrait, and Paul Weissman’s paired x-ray images of ‘like mother, like daughter’ in “Sum of Us.”
Parent-child relationships are further explored by Carol Hamoy’s child’s dress embedded with her father’s image and her poetry in “This Is My Dad” and Nathan Hilu’s nostalgic depiction of his parents’ wedding in Damascus in 1910. The loss of that relationship is expressed by the poignant torn shirt of mourning by Ken Goldman, embroidered with the words “Take Care of Your Father,” and Nancy Mantell’s photograph of “US Military Cemetery at Margraten,” where her prisoner of war father, killed by the Nazis, lies buried.
The cycle of life is evoked by Maya Brodsky’s painting of three generations in “Adriel,” Susan Grabel’s ceramic sculpture series, Deborah Rosenthal’s abstracted ‘garland’ of parents and child, Janet Goldner’s welded steel diary in “As Life Slips Away,” and Grace Graupe-Pillard’s “Lightbulbs,” expressing the fragility of her aging parents’ lives.
Portraits include Robert Forman’s yarn painting of his family, Louise Silk’s embroidered textile tribute to “Bubbe and Zadie,” Maxine Hess’s fabric collage of her Saturdays with her grandfather, Lloyd Wolf’s “Grandma’s Kiss,” and Ellen Holtzblatt’s father holding his grandchild. Flora Rosefsky’s “Summer Calendar” documents the comings and goings of relatives and friends in her summer house, while Neil MacCormick’s depicts a moment in his documentation of a day in his life in “One Day at Rest.”
Spousal relationships are seen in Susan Silk’s “My Sister and Brother-in-Law,” Selma Bluestein’s stoical couple in “The El,” and DOEprojekt’s conceptual depiction of the husband-wife artists communicating through coreforms. Young and old love are evoked by the embracing couples in Nadine Epstein’s photograph “Shadows After the Rain,” Ruth Weisberg’s affectionate portrait of her daughter and son-in-law inn “Married,” Todd Weinstein’s “Old Couple in Garden Cafeteria, NYC,” Deborah Amerling’s “Sharing the Ladder of Life,” and Phyllis Herfield’s “Family Portrait” depicting an elegant couple in their opulent home.
Estelle Yarinsky’s large scale quilted textile of “Lucie” conveys Lucie Dreyfus’s faithful struggle to overturn the anti-Semitic conviction of her husband, Captain Alfred Dreyfus in the Dreyfus Affair. Patricia Van Ardoy’s etching of twins in “Brothers: The Miners” conveys their child labor victimization.
Food as the building block for relationships can be seen in a number of works, including Andi Arnovitz’s “Theresa Feldman: Food is Life is Love,” Dorene Beller’s “Family Dinner,” Bernard Brussel-Smith’s wood engraving “Breaking Bread,” Bonnie Heller’s family cooking together in “Bless These Hands,” and Morris Topchevsky’s “Lunch Hour” during the Depression.
Relationships by choice are seen in Heddy Abramowitz’s intimate photo of male friends in a cafe, Tully Filmus’s exuberant charcoal drawing of Hasidic men dancing, Maj Kalfus’s men in “White Shirts,” Marc Weinstein’s “Friends,” and Archie Rand’s “The Artists.” Dare Boles “Letters from Home” depicts the sustenance of distant connections, while Ruth Leaf’s “Orchard Street” captures neighborhood associations. Childhood friendships are depicted in Robin Tewes’s “Fair Game” and Joyce Ellen Weinstein’s “The Surrogate Family.”
The alliance of African-American and Jewish civil rights activists is evoked in Jeffrey Schrier’s “Black and White, Selma, 1965: Praying with Our Feet.” The collaborative mixed media vessels by Jackie Abrams and Deidre Scherer both depict and embody friendship, while Ken Ratner’s photographs convey the connections between men conversing or playing games in China Town. Sports as the convener of relationships is seen in Max Ferguson’s “Handball,” and music unites the jazz musicians in Tamar Hirschl’s energetic drawings of live performances.
The connection to cherished objects or pets is exemplified by Joseph Cavalieri’s “The Automobiles of Isaac Hayes, Maggie Siner’s child’s teddy bear in “Tossed,” and Trix Rosen’s “Bliss: I’d Rather Be a Dog.”
Iris Levinson’s “Quantum Entanglements and Aspirations” expresses existing and future relationships as characterized by that phenomenon when two particles experience a shared state and exist as one. Relationships by happenstance are found in Pauline Chernichaw’s photograph of subway riders sharing space.
Artists address their relationship to their faith in Peachy Levy’s embroidered textile “God and Me,” David Wander’s minyan of men at prayer in “Five Threads of Blue,” Laurie Gross’s dying father holding his prayer book in her photograph “Hold Fast to It. And So He Did,” and Brian Shapiro’s “Girl Blessing the Torah.”
The relationships created through tragic circumstances are seen in Michael Mendel’s watercolor of “Towards an Unknown Fate,” based on his father’s Holocaust experiences; Elaine Clayman’s “Raggedy Ann Is Away from Home,” painted on a 1940s suitcase evoking the Shoah; Marcia Annenberg’s “Wedding Party,” featuring children wearing yellow stars; Norman Gershman’s photograph of an Albanian rescuer holding the photograph of the mother and child she rescued during the Holocaust; and Debbie Teicholz Guedalia’s “Portraits of a Lost Generation – Girl and Boy.” The current immigration crisis inspired Marlene D’Orazio Adler’s “Torn Hears, Reunited.”
HEDDY ABRAMOWITZ • JACKIE ABRAMS • MARLENE D’ORAZIO ADLER • DEBORAH AMERLING • MARCIA ANNENBERG • ANDI ARNOVITZ • WILL BARNET • DORENE BELLER • MARK BERGHASH • SELMA BLUESTEIN • DARE BOLES • MAYA BRODSKY • BERNARD BRUSSEL-SMITH • JOSEPH CAVALIERI • PAULINE CHERNICHAW • ELAINE CLAYMAN • DOEPROJEKTS: DEBORAH ADAMS DOERING AND GLENN N. DOERING • NADINE EPSTEIN • MAX FERGUSON • TULLY FILMUS • ROBERT FORMAN • NORMAN GERSHMAN • KEN GOLDMAN • JANET GOLDNER • SUSAN GRABEL • GRACE GRAUPE-PILLARD • LAURIE GROSS • DEBBIE TEICHOLZ GUEDALIA • CAROL HAMOY • BONNIE HELLER • PHYLLIS HERFIELD • MAXINE HESS • NATHAN HILU • BARBARA HINES • TAMAR HIRSCHL • ELLEN HOLTZBLATT • MAJ KALFUS • RUTH LEAF • IRIS LEVINSON • PEACHY LEVY • NEIL MACCORMICK • NANCY MANTELL • RICHARD MCBEE • MICHAEL MENDEL • JUNGHWA PARK • LIONEL PICKER • MARK PODWAL • ARCHIE RAND • KEN RATNER • FLORA ROSEFSKY • TRIX ROSEN • DEBORAH ROSENTHAL • REUVEN RUBIN • DEIDRE SCHERER • JEFFREY SCHRIER • BRIAN SHAPIRO • LOUISE SILK • SUSAN SINEK • MAGGIE SINER • ROBIN TEWES • MORRIS TOPCHEVSKY • PATRICIA VAN ARDOY • DAVID WANDER • JOYCE ELLEN WEINSTEIN • MARC WEINSTEIN • TODD WEINSTEIN • RUTH WEISBERG • PAUL WEISSMAN • LLOYD WOLF • ESTELLE YARINSKY
"In 2007, I embarked on an artistic and spiritual journey to illustrate the Five Books of Moses and contribute a unique visual interpretation of these ancient texts for all who hold dear both the written word and painted image. Each book was carefully researched for its singular role in the whole, inspiring hundreds of original drawings illustrating the stories behind the words.
Reflecting back, I recall the day I bought the first roll of paper for Genesis on Canal Street. On the subway back to my studio, I marveled at the simple blank paper that would soon be imbued with God’s spirit—and knew I was ready to begin my journey.
More than a decade later, this paper that I hand-painted in watercolor, gouache, and gold leaf alongside the Hebrew text in artisan calligraphy has come together as a singular work of art and a profound tribute to the tradition of millennia. Upon completing this unparalleled undertaking, I extend my hope that this original body of work brings others the delight and inspiration that saw me through this enterprise.
The completed volumes now have a life of their own. They are just beginning their independent journey not only as objects of beauty but as contemporary vessels of Jewish education and learning for generations to come."
-- Avner Moriah, Jerusalem
Presented at the Dr. Bernard Heller Museum by the Irma L. and Abram S. Croll Center for Jewish Learning and Culture, with the support of George, z”l, and Mildred Weissman.
Avner Moriah’s Five Books of Moses have been donated to Hebrew Union College - Jewish Iinstitute of Religion’s Klau Library by Sheila and Bill Lambert in memory of Rabbi Aaron Panken, Ph.D., z”l, HUC-JIR Past President (2014-2018), and Rabbi David Posner, z”l, Senior Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York (1973-2013) and former member of the HUC-JIR Board of Governors (2005-2015).
Video of the Dedication Service
Yael Kanarek’s Regendered Bible unsettles habitual perception of these ancient stories.
For the past two years, Kanarek has been rewriting the Torah in Hebrew and English, reversing the genders of all characters, to reveal the feminine divine of the Torah's spiritual body. This initiative was inspired by a decade of Kabbalah study, and in response to the astonishing void of women-centered sacred text.
Kanarek explains, “This 'technical' adaptation creates a seismographic consciousness shift and exposes individual and collective habitual thinking. The work codifies women experience in sacred language with a host of many new female characters in central positions.”
While Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus have been completed in first draft, during her residency at Romemu, she is currently working on BaMidbar (Numbers) with an objective to complete the Torah and prepare it for publication. Recently, she collaborated with Lab/Shul and did the first ever aliyah with the story of the Akeda.
This exhibition features her Visual Midrashim, as prints, to reveal the potential of the Regendered Bible.
Yael Kanarek is a visual artist and jewelry designer. Her practice focuses on the relationship between language and form. She works in various media from internet art, to large-scale sculpture, to fine jewelry. Kanarek was born in New York City and raised in Israel. She returned in the early 90's to study and practice art and became known for her internet art trilogy World of Awe.
She exhibited her work at the Jewish Museum, The Whitney Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and more. She’s a recipient of fellowships with the Rockefeller New Media grant, Eyebeam, and LABA - The Laboratory for Jewish Culture, where she designed the Hebrew font, Gufanit, for her fine jewelry practice. She is an artist-in-residency at Romemu Center for the year.
In 2018, she installed a large-scale sculpture commissioned by the US Department of State at the new embassy in Zimbabwe.