Walking The Work

And tonight we put our work all around the room before it was hung.  We walked and walked around…and studied each other’s pieces.   So amazing to hear us say to each other “Tell me about this”. — and “This is my grandfather.” And “This is my story…”.   “It’s very emotional.”IMG_1189

AND שדךלחןקןחףךחןןממקלגלגלגלדץקןיישמשמגןגמששרירך״”    (Words spoken in Hebrew which I did not understand but where nevertheless heartfelt.)

Eve took pictures (they are posted here).      I heard some singing.    I heard “Do you have any more of your Zines”?     I heard “Megan is here and we have been waiting for her and all of this!”.IMG_1192

“This is gorgeous!”  “Do you need help with anything?”  “This is so nerve-wracking!”

“Wow, just wow.”  “We finally have a minyan!”IMG_1172

“Well, she made it”.   “It was like my Grandma.”   “The other paper I used was much more transparent”.   “I am still compiling, it is a process”.     “Oh, it’s Eva!  She is beautiful”.   “This is — like — so HOLY”.

IMG_1185“It was wet”.  “Oh, you painted it?”  “So, it was also performance”.   “It’s a photo of the painted work”.   “I love gesso”.     “It’s instant texture-pattern”.    “It like so familiar”.   (But not too familiar)    “It’s like the signs in Israel”.    “Leading community and all that”.     “I have been so jealous ever since you said that”.   “I have been thinking about that.   That is SO interesting.”    “Your piece makes me breathe better.”    “You painted in my palette!”

“That’s so great!”

“I came across the drawing you did on Chanukah”.


It is the Inside coming to the Outside.   What was and has been inside all of us is now being revealed.      We are subtending the boundaries of ourselves — of our imaginations and bringing our work into common reality.   What was concealed is now revealed.    We are finally unmasked.

Come see the show — opening SUNDAY, APRIL 30th, 3:00-5:00 PM at UW Hillel, 611 Langdon Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53703.




Vos macht a yid?

And so, it seems that we struggle with Jewish identity.   Like — who is a Jew?  “Vos macht a yid”….what makes a Jew?   And once you are a Jew….are you really anything else?

It used to be that Jews greeted each other with this phrase:  Vos Macht a Yid? –another way of saying “hey, how’s it going?”.   Or…the Jew is Me is Greeting the Jew in You.


This evening we explored Jewish Identity as Essential/Ontological.   In the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 44a, R. Abba ben Zabda says:  Even though [the people] have sinned, they are still [called] Israel.  R. Abba said:  Thus people say, a myrtle, though it stands among reeds, is still a myrtle, and so it is called.img_1661

This of course provides many conversations…that a Myrtle which wishes to be a Reed — wants to secularize into the Reed Community, will always be seen as a Myrtle by the other Reeds. (think “Ugly Duckling” story)   No matter how much we polish our Reed-ness, we still look and act like a Myrtle to the other Reeds — and also to the other Myrtles.  We cannot change our basic essence — and as is written in the Sanhedrin above, Judaism/Jewishness is part of our Essence.img_1660

You can take on Buddhism — and you are a Jewish Buddhist — a JewBu.   You accept Jesus as the Mashiach and you are called a Jew for Jesus.   The Jew In You cannot be extricated from your being.  Even if you are exiled, you are The Jew in Exile.

Daniel Boyarin, a UC Berkeley talmudist. in his book “A Radical Jew” (University of California Press, 1994) has written “Jews in general feel not that Jewishness is something they have freely chosen but rather that it is an essence — an essence often nearly empty of any content other than itself — which has been ascribed — sometimes even imposed — on them by birth.”img_1659

This falls under the category of the UnNameable, the Unknowable, Shakespeare’s Hamlet saying “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in our philosophy”.

But as Jews I think we are accustomed to the idea that something is just beyond our reach, just beyond our touch, beyond our understanding…and perhaps that Divine UnKnowable spark within makes us a Jew.

Or as I have written previously HERE:  “And when we know this part of ourselves, our Divine spark, the for us, every bush, every bush is a burning one.”

So, Vos Macht a Yid?   Is it that UnKnowable Essence?  Is it kindness and awareness of social injustice and connection and risk-taking?  Well, many think that in the world of art, that may be the Jewish calling card — if there is such a thing.

Robert Frank, a 1950’s photographer from Switzerland, came to this country and began to take a series of photographs, grainy in quality, with his Leica camera.  Here are a few examples of his work…you can feel, in the pieces, the social commentary, the feeling.   The pieces are evocative, provocative…and all at once gentle.  In this group of photos…there are many commentaries which can be described on who is inside and who is outside…socially, spatially and emotionally in the photographs.

Take a look below!

Trolley Car:  New Orleans, Robert Frank
Black Lady & White Baby, Robert Frank

And, as a final note, Lenny Bruce on who and what is Jewish and who and what is Goyish.

Enjoy:  Lenny Bruce: Jewish and Goyish

N.Y.C Lower East Side Puerto Ricans, Robert Frank, 1954
Elevator Girl:  Miami, Robert Frank 1954


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

See The Work! – Part Three

And — all the work can be seen in person at UW Hillel — 611 Langdon Street, Madison, Wisconsin, through August 4, 2016.

Leslie Coff “Cheshmal” Diptych Panel One 36×36 Mixed Media On Canvas 2016
Leslie Coff “Cheshmal” Diptych Panel Two 36×36″ Mixed Media on Canvas 2016
Leslie Coff “Echoes of Wisdom” 36×36″ Mixed Media On Canvas 2016


See The Work! – Part Two

Joshua Gilstein “This Is Madison” Triptych Panel One – Acrylic On Canvas 2016
Joshua Gilstein “This Is Madison” Triptych Panel Two – Acrylic On Canvas
Joshua Gilstein “This Is Madison” Triptych Panel Three – Acrylic On Canvas
Rachel Herbsman “Accumulation” Collage 2016
Rachel Herbsman “Constellations” Collage 2016
Rachel Herbsman “Unmoored” Collage 2016


See The Work! – Part One

Pamela Phillips Olson “Was She Wrong To Rejoice?” Collage 2016
Pamela Phillips Olson “Could You Not Have Looked Back?” Collage 2016
Deborah Kades “Blonke” Cotton Thread on Cloth 2016
Deborah Kades “Merkhek” Cotton Thread On Cloth 2016
Deborah Kades “Baytl” Glass Bead on Leather 2016
Ellen Meyer “School Photograph” 2016  48×48″  Acrylic on Canvas