Carving mini-sculptures from the cream in the middle of Oreo cookies or turning eggs on toast into fine art are the best kind of challenges for Judith Klausner. The Jewish artist likes to transform everyday household items into works of art and, in the process, inject aesthetic meaning into women’s traditional chores. She hopes her art sheds light on is the beauty of the choices available to modern women.
“I can choose to spend my day baking a loaf of bread, or to grab a package off a grocery store shelf after a long day at work,” says Klausner, who lives in Somerville, Mass. “I can choose to spend my evenings embroidering. I can choose to combine these things and call it art.”
Klausner’s creations embrace the crafts that once bound women to the home and embellish how they may now function as means of female empowerment. She hopes to bring to life the fine line a Jewish feminist must walk: the merging of homemaking and ambition. In an interview with the Forward, she admitted she “feels history” in the process, identifying with the simple pleasures of previous generations while feeling repulsed that “they had no other course.” The beauty of “From Scratch” she says, is about having the ability to pursue traditional crafts of pleasure rather than duty.
Her “From Scratch” project include Oreo Cameos – which feature astonishingly minute detail on the two-inch diameter cookie. They can take anywhere from three to six hours to complete. Even once they’re done, she still has to struggle to preserve them, a tricky process since the cookie cream may lose its shape and erase some of the painstaking detail that took so long to eke out. Klausner professes that although she is experimenting with sealants as means of preservation, the cameos are largely a display piece.
Other elements of the series include a piece of real toast emblazoned with an embroidered fried egg. Klausner said it took nearly thirty hours to complete the work, with the toast getting more and more brittle.
“Stitching on the egg was both time-consuming and nerve wracking,” she said. “As I got closer and closer to finishing, the toast got drier and the area I was embroidering became less bread and more thread.”
However, working with difficult materials does not faze Ms. Klausner. She derives pleasure from “trying to look at everyday objects beyond their primary identities, as materials with their own particular aesthetic and sculptural qualities.”
Klausner lists a Judaic form of social activism as the primary inspiration for her work. She grew up attending Workman’s Circle schools and Camp Kinderland in the summer, and proclaims “these communities helped to form my ideas about our responsibilities to one another as people, and the role of art in communication… [they] instilled in me this belief that to share an experience of the world is a truly worthy goal.”
If a few Oreos melt along the way, that’s no problem, she says. Her purpose is to “help others to view the world just a little bit differently.”
“If I can share the beauty I see in an everyday object like a cookie, or cause someone to think critically about what it means that they can chose to buy a loaf of bread,” she said. “I will feel I have succeeded.”