There was giant Hebrew letter Shin representing the Shekhina — the Godly presence — constructed out of large branches to be launched on a lake and set on fire, a 12-tone music system assigned to the Hebrew alphabet and the 72 names of God, and organic art installations hanging from trees in the forest.
These were just a few of the experimental pieces of land art being created by artists-in-residence at “The Jewish Waltz with Planet Earth Retreat,” a Jewish artists’ residency at the bucolic Eden Village Camp, in Putnam Valley, NY, during the month of May.
The retreat is the first artist colony run by Art Kibbutz NY, an organization set up to nurture Jewish artists and art collaboration, and to create a stronger community of Jewish artists.
“We’ve brought together a diverse group of Jewish artists, of all different disciplines, ages — from 20 to 70 — religious denominations, and from eight countries, and they’ve all engaged and formed a community. I didn’t even have to do much facilitating — art is such a common language, and through this they’ve built their own community,” said Patricia Eszter Margit, Art Kibbutz NY founder.
At an “Open Studio Day” on May 12 artists ran workshops, concerts and performances and presented their art to visitors.
Print-maker Nikki Green, collaborating on the “Shin” installation with fellow artist Asherah Cinnamon, was displaying her ornate prints of Hebrew letters enrobed in motifs from nature at her studio. “In my art, I look at the juxtaposition of the letter and the land,” said Green, who came all the way from Western Australia to participate in Art Kibbutz. Green’s work is inspired by, and created from, the landscape around her, using dyes from native flora for her Hebrew letters series. “I’m seeing flowers that grow here that I’ve never seen before. It’s very exciting!” she said.
While a bunch of musty old books may not, at first, sound like a diverting idea for an exhibition, Columbia University has succeeded in bringing to life an illuminating collection of Judaic manuscripts.
“The People in the Books: Judaic Manuscripts at Columbia University Libraries,” on display in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library until January 25, is all about bringing to life the stories behind the manuscripts — who were the authors, owners and real people who handled these books, papers and letters hundreds of years ago? This is all about the “paratext” — the scribbled notes written in the margins of books, the changing ownership of a manuscript, the physical aspect of text. In other words, all the bibliographical clues that lead us to visualise the interaction real people had with a manuscript during its active life.
The exhibition, broken up into sections such as “Travellers,” “Congregants,” “Mystics,” “Doctors” and “Timekeepers,” gathers together diverse and rare manuscripts such as philosophical treatises, sefarim, letters, ketubot, and calendars, which are written in Hebrew, Dutch, Judeo-German and Spanish, among other languages, each giving its own vignette of Jewish community life in Europe and beyond.
Each Haggadah tells not just the story of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, but also the story of its owners. Containing worn, loose or torn out pages, covered with wine stains and littered with matzo crumbs, the Haggadah reflects how Jews celebrate the yearly rituals of the Seder night.
This year, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is getting into the Passover spirit with “The Rylands Haggadah: Medieval Jewish Art in Context,” a new exhibit showing a “priceless” medieval Haggadah.
The Rylands Haggadah, on loan from the University of Manchester, England, hails from Catalonian Spain and dates from the mid-1300s. It is being displayed alongside other medieval works of art that tell stories of the Jewish people in the Bible.
Nina Beilina, a violinist and professor at Mannes College The New School for Music, describes herself as a traditional, if not a religious Jew. It was when she was branded a “Yid” on the streets of Russia that she first felt really Jewish. “I was brought up by my parents to be cosmopolitan, international; then the Stalin era came and anti-Semitism was blooming. I turned to being nationalistic, not international. I was proud to be Jewish,” she said.
Beilina left Russia with her son in 1977. Yet, “as soon as I crossed the border, I was furious because suddenly I became a ‘Russian’!” she exclaimed. “I would say, ‘Why are you calling me Russian? I’m Jewish. I have Jewish blood!’”
On March 28 Beilina will be presenting a concert of “Jewish Voices” at Manhattan’s Congregation Ansche Chesed, featuring Bachanalia, a group of 16 musicians she leads, and the world premiere of “The Breath of All Life — Meditations on two Jewish Prayers,” a composition by Cantor Natasha Hirschhorn.
“Distorting (a messiah project, 13C),” an installation by artist R. Justin Stewart, is a technically ambitious representation of that most elusive of subjects: the Jewish concept of the Messiah.
On view until May 5 at the industrial-chic Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn, the large-scale installation is composed of an elaborate web of blue, green and turquoise fleece pods interconnected by rope and plastic stretching from floor to ceiling. It invites the viewer to draw close and interact directly with the art, as well as with the artist’s thought process.
This second element is thanks to a technical twist: On each of the fleece pods, there is a QR (Quick Response) code which viewers are invited to scan using their smart phones, giving them access to a different piece of research Stewart undertook for the project, which draws on 13th-century Jewish scholarly sources.
This article has been sent!Close