Sharing Inside/Outside Boundaries

This evening we began our exploration of different types of boundaries which we have encountered/enjoyed/struggled with.  Each of us brought an example or a story of a boundary.

Steve brought milkweed seed pods — which he collects every year…for him…it is not just the beauty of the seed pods…but the juxtaposition of bringing something from the outdoors…subtending the boundaries to the indoors.  img_1629img_1628

Sabrina described her history with choosing to wear a headscarf…and that sometimes, for her, this provides a way of protecting herself when she is feeling vulnerable.

Suzanne brought this Native American photo from National Geographic.  Photographers, she described, are really outsiders, but try to be insiders.   img_1631

I have been fascinated for a long while with the work of Anselm Kiefer.   This piece, The Breaking of the Vessels (1990, St. Louis Art Museum) is my first love of his work.  Here the vessels holding Divine Light have been crushed by surrounding ancient tomes, and in breaking, the inside and the outside have mingled.

“The Breaking of the Vessels” 1990, Anselm Kiefer. Glass. Metal and Wood. St. Louis Art Museum.

Isabel described metaphorical boundaries — those that exist in our own minds…and how difficult it is to fight boundaries within ourselves.

Rena described their experience with wearing a kippah — and their decision to begin wearing one on November 8, 2016 (election day).    The gender suggestion of a kippah may seem obvious, it is clearly a “masculine object”.    In choosing to identify as “other”, one also subtends many boundaries.      In a secular context, Rena explained, the kippah separates them; it carries great weight — both with Jews and with others who wear different types of head coverings.     In taking the name “Yehuda” — a masculine Hebrew name, one jumps from inside to outside and to inside again in so many ways.


Lucy has been exploring opportunities to take action, also since November 8th.   She has realized that language is a boundary  when working with different communities….communties of color, differing demographics, etc.     She has been thinking about how many negative words are used to describe different communities — and how language barriers can be presented visually….how communication and relationship can be affected in our conscious use of positive versus negative language….

Lucy sharing on visual representation of language boundaries.

Pam brought in an armband which she wore a few decades ago…in a strike for peace and freedom.    Again, boundaries subtended, inside and outside and inside again…

Pam and the “strike” band.


Hagit is a poet.   She has translated her work from the Hebrew and she had brought two poems to share with us.   She described that inside/outside — another layer to explore — is being an outsider to the English language.    She read from her fourth book in Hebrew…and then in English.   The works:  “I drew a circle” and “Like a baby“…

Hagit reads from her work.

Of course, in scripture, an obvious Inside/Outside reference in our history/story…tells of Adam and Eve.

So many different representations in art of their exile…from when they were in Gan Eden…to when they were not.   Some of the following images are different iterations of Adam and Eve…img_1646img_1645img_1644img_1643


New Beginnings & The Story Circle

img_1613img_1612As with all new beginnings of groups, we had some new folks and some veterans — and we were grateful to be back all together with new stimuli and creative minds and collaborators.  This year we begin with a new theme and the addition of a few new cities: see masthead above for complete list of cities!

We will be studying “Outside/Inside:  Exploring Boundaries and Otherness”.

Of course img_1616there are a zillion different ways in which we can explore all these…in terms of the material, the spiritual, societal rules and norms, gender, religion, political, cultural, spatial…but for us, tonight, we began with a story circle.   And what, do you ask, is a story circle?  Well, as everything begins, a story circle begins with a spark, a prompt.    Our sparks for the evening:

(1) Are you a Jewish Artist?  Tell a story about how your self expression came out…

(2) What makes art Jewish?   Tell a story on how this challenges you….

(3) Tell a story on how an interaction with a Jewish artist was especially meaningful for you.

And so we began.  The story circle was a beautiful opening.  It represented a gentle unfolding of ourselves to each other — and to ourselves.   We weave the stories of our lives — of our hearts — into our work, into our art, whether we are aware of this or not.

Interesting ideas which came out of the evening — Archie Rand describes Art as Midrash — and to me, I am thinking that we are the art — that we are the midrashim.

Rabbi Steinberger described for us the idea of HaShem — God — as Artist.  In the creation story all is carefully crafted, molded, sculptured, breathed-life-into….

Rabbi Andrea Steinberger

Imagine the world as a gallery — God as Artist painting the clouds onto the sky, adding light here and there as final touches…adding texture to the buffalo and the hedgehog with an impasto knife…composing the silent but staggering music that is heard when the sun breaches the horizon — or when we witness the aurora borealis for not just the first time — but for every time.


And for the world as art installation — where are the boundaries of the created and the framed….in other words…where does the piece of creation end and the framing of it begin?   Are there really any boundaries to a particular creation…or does it go on and on…?


Almost all the group…(not pictured:  Isabel Coff, Pamela Phillips Olson, Deborah Kades and Megan Katz — and Leslie Coff, who is behind the camera)