Saturday, September 11, 2010

Judaic Art -Where's the Connection?

Custom Torah Pointer (yod)
Tomorrow I will get together with 7 other "Judaica artists."  I know two of them-noted photographer Bill Aron, and Rhonda Kap, a metalsmith, not unlike myself. The three of us used to display and sell at the wonderful Temple Isaiah Festival of Jewish Artists, in Los Angeles. It was an annual ritual for us, every November each year. It was one of the first  high quality shows of Jewish art, and a model for others to aspire to, around the country. Artists were juried into the show, and came from many countries. That festival was a gift to the Jewish community of Los Angeles for 25 years. I was privileged to be there for about 23 of those years, and when it ended, I felt a void in my November.

So what is Jewish Art? Is it art created only by Jewish artists? Or can anyone create Jewish art, as long as it contains some Jewish symbolism or conveys a story relevant to the Jewish experience? Perhaps it is art that is principally enjoyed and understood by Jewish people. Probably it is some combination of all, with a few other definitions thrown in as well. Some of it is functional and is used for ritual purposes.Some is purely decorative, and some is abstract and emotive.  I think that those of us who create this art, and those of us who appreciate it and perhaps collect it, feel that we know it when we see it!!

So, tomorrow is the artists' reception for the Judaic Art Exhibit at the Finegood Art Gallery, at the Jewish Community Center, in West Hills, a distant suburb of Los Angeles. Los Angeles has one of the largest Jewish populations in the world. We are now in the time period right between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, real heavyweights on the Jewish calendar. Jews are really feeling Jewish now, even if they feel less so during the rest of the year. Will they turn out in droves for this exhibit? I hope so. Hundreds of years ago, patrons supported their favorite artists. The artist held a position of respect in the community, and did not have to worry about selling his (mostly) creations. Patrons made it possible for the artists to continue working just as artists, while being able to support their families. Were the artists constrained in their artistic styles? Did they have artistic freedom over what they created?  I'm not sure, but it's fun to fantasize about having a patron who will pay for all materials plus a generous salary so we can work as we desire without a care!!
House of God Mezuzah

Seriously, I hope lots of people turn out for this reception tomorrow. I know the exhibit organizers have worked hard, and I also know that all visitors will be in for a real treat!


  1. Great post Miss Ruth. Hope the reception went well. Wish i could have been there.

  2. Thanks, Lora! It was a beautiful day!!