Life of Jewish Art

Comments and discussion about the role of Jewish visual arts in Jewish civilization.
A look at what is happening at Jewish museums and other collections of Jewish art.

Map Collage and Jewish Themes

The goal with my artwork -- map collage -- is to make the particular universal and to focus on combining imagery that illustrates passages from the Torah with ecological, technological and scientific concepts.

I strive to find common ground between these seemingly disparate realms. Maps that I incorporate into collages may be part of the regional, geographic, geological or religious narratives.  Usually there is more than one story a map can convey.  My work also has more than one story to tell.  I may be both trying to describe the curve of the earth on a flat piece of paper and using maps to blur the boundaries between the natural and the manufactured/technological world, representing simultaneously land, sky, water and architecture.

My use of contemporary images, symbols and metaphors while working with Torah stories shows the adaptability and applicability of the stories across the millennia.b2ap3_thumbnail_Peah.png

As an example, in a recent collage, titled "Pe'ah: the Corners of Our Fields".  A passage from Parsha Kedoshim invokes farmers to share grain from the corners of their field for gleaners. Rather than a field of traditional grain, this field "grows" solar power, inspired by a solar power company in the Negev that donates power to worthy organizations.  Some viewers will appreciate the Biblical aspect of the collage while others will relate to the ecological and charitable aspects.
Another example is  the "Tower of Babble" collage was influenced by the well-known Brueghel painting of the Tower of Babel.  b2ap3_thumbnail_Babel.png
My basing the collage on this rendition of the fabled structure was integral to the concept of bringing the ancient up to date and made complete by my inserting cell phones in all the windows and archways. The "built in" message is that our addiction to mobile technology, of which we are so proud, will be the undoing of our ability to communicate. Just as the Babylonians were proud of their advanced technology, their success in baking bricks allowed them to think they could build a tower high enough to reach the heavens, but it led to the destruction of their society.

Additionally, I make collages that illustrate a significant passage of a Torah Portion for bar and bat mitzvah that can be made into the invitation to the simcha.

To see more of my art please visit my website:
most specifically these pages:

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Wendy Rabinowitz: Shaker Connections

For the past two years, while vacationing in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts, I've been surprised by art exhibits that focus on Jewish themes. Two years ago, the wonderful Pissarro exhibit at The Clark Museum in Williamstown tied together the early Impressionist with his Jewish heritage and political leanings.

This year, while visiting the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield this August, I was struck by Wendy Rabinowitz's exhibit tying together Shaker and Jewish concepts of peace, through her exhibit, "Shalom: Weaving Threads of Peace." As it turns out, around 1842 the Shakers gave each of their villages a spiritual name and Hancock became City of Peace, the traditional translation of Jerusalem.Praise-God56.opt.jpg

"I've always been a peace activist," Rabinowitz said in an interview. "This exhibit is about expanding the intersections of the traditions."

Following nine months of research, Rabinowitz says she started seeing the similarities in the shared Jewish and Shaker experience. She identified 20 aspects, such as Neshama/Soul and Healing Hands. She grew increasingly appreciative of both religions' deep reverence and respect for the earth and creation, the sacred work of our hands and craftsmanship.

Her artwork combines weaving and textile arts with other visual arts, graphics and the written word, resulting in mixed media assemblages. "All of my work is Jewishly based," she says. "I think Jewish art is the art of co-creation with God, nature and goodness in the world."

The month-long art exhibit, in the much prettier than named Poultry House, tied together common themes between Shaker and Jewish culture. Each piece of art was accompanied by an explanation of the intersection.

Rabinowitz's artwork ties together bright fabrics and other media with Jewish icons, such as the Ten Commandments, mezzuzot or tallitot. Often, there is Hebrew text embedded -- a related blessing or quotation from the Prophets. Her piece, Praise God, seen above, includes both the orignal Hebrew and an English translation, placed within a sea of pastels. Shakers, celibate and expressive through music and craft, were deeply committed to the praise of God.

Rabinowitz compares her artistic experience to common Jewish themes: self-discovery like the desert wandering, creation as an act of renewal, and Tikkun Olam as a healing process, responsive to God. "I see living as joyful, but also as a struggle with our relationship to God," she says.

"Shalom: Weaving Threads of Peace" will be on exhibit in January and February, 2013 at The Farber/Miness Gallery Ludwig Schenectady Jewish Community Center in Niskayuna, NY. A different show, "Journey of Peace: Art as Meditation" will be open in November at Osilas Gallery at Concordia College in Bronxville, NY.

Find her website at and her Facebook page at






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