A Stitch in Jewish Time: Provocative Textiles - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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A Stitch in Jewish Time: Provocative Textiles

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On View: September 7, 2010 – June 30, 2011
Opening Reception: Wednesday, October 13, 2010, 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Old clothes considered then to be provocative

Carol Hamoy

Textiles are the most varied of ‘manufactured’ goods. Lending themselves to body covering, shelter, food storage, transportation of goods, and group/clan identification, they were, and remain to this day, objects of high status, decoration, creativity, and spiritual identity. A Stitch in Jewish Time: Provocative Textiles explores how exceptional contemporary artists apply their skillful creativity to the ever evolving understanding of Jewish values. Individually addressing issues of memory and reflection, interpretations of history and ritual, and links between the past and present, they delve into aspects of the Holocaust, war, patriotism, celebration, prayer, feminism, and sexuality, frequently through the inclusion of Biblical texts and sometimes challenging traditional forms.

Until modern times, however, textiles were not ranked as fine art materials and were not regarded as highly as precious metals and gemstones, carved rare wood, fine porcelains and 

Leslie Golomb and Louise Silk

Leslie Golomb and Louise Silk

blown glass with their perceived greater durability, standards of workmanship, and prestige. Although the exquisite tapestries of Renaissance and Baroque Europe offer an exception to this, the fabrication of textiles was, for centuries, considered a domestic craft – “women’s work.”

A major rift in the hitherto male-dominated art world occurred in 1969 with the emergence of Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro, each challenging the concept of women relegated to “women’s work.” They collaborated to form the first feminist art program, Womanhouse, at the California Institute of the Arts, and to this day continue to make references in their art to the humble and restricted materials of women’s creative efforts.

Schapiro’s work is marked by a signature gesture of overlaying a collage of fabric on the painted graphic canvas, asserting her links to the continuing role of women and domesticity.  Her Menorah, constructed of burgeoning floral textile elements, asserts an egalitarian assertion of identification and meaning in this traditional seven-branched symbol of Judaism.   

Painting by Judy Chicago

Judy Chicago

Chicago, frequently working in large series or “projects,” uses needlecraft and weaving as an additional technique of fine art. The Birth Project (1980-1985) grew out of Chicago’s realization that there were few if any images of actual childbirth depicted in Western art. This epic Aubusson tapestry, woven by Audrey Cowan in collaboration with Judy Chicago, was achieved through the needlework efforts of numerous women across the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand, as was Chicago’s renowned Dinner Party (1974-1979). Chicago differs with the neat and clean version presented in Genesis 2:21-23, presenting the act of birth and human creation as a volcanic event, linking it to all human endeavors.

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