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