Arielle Stein: Like a Rose Among Thorns

On View through July 8, 2024

Arielle Stein art

What does the Torah teach us about love? The Song of Songs has a few suggestions. While readers might not typically look to the Bible for a primer on human to human or human to divine sensuality, the song does not mince words (or imagery).

Integrating biblical text, commentary and visual exegesis, Like a Rose Among Thorns describes the exuberant, curious and lush world in which the Song of Song takes place. Like a Rose Among Thorns traces the song chapter by chapter, evoking key moments in the love story the text presents, offering viewers the opportunity to encounter expressions of the original text and related commentary while getting lost in the language of artist and rabbinical student Arielle Stein.

Stein’s 16 drawings, arranged in diptychs, employ a combination of delicate, dark line and subtle use of color, focusing on simple drawing techniques. Stein’s images are neither illustrations nor literal depictions. Rather, they reveal the narrative through a surreal lens; men become stags, Moses drips from the Shulamite’s breast, the Moon drinks from a belly goblet, Torah scrolls flow like grief-laden water from a beloved’s eyes and mouth. Merging animals and humans, nature and the built world, Stein’s imagery is nearly that of a fairytale gone wrong. And yet, the sinister is kept at bay.

Like a Rose Among Thorns provides an opportunity to encounter the song through fresh eyes. For Stein, the series offers a chance to express the centrality of intimate relationships within sacred text. Taking 18 months to complete during 2023-2024, the drawings are part of a larger project in which Stein will produce a full visual guide (graphic novel) of the Song of Songs. These drawings represent a significant moment in Stein’s artistic exploration, leading to ongoing integrations of Jewish sacred literature and her own artistic practice.