Journey through the landscape of the Holocaust. A cloaking of religious
beliefs. An attempt to assimilate by assuming a new inclusion. A
fear of being ostracized
Those are some of the themes that surface in Jewish Artists: On the
Edge, an exhibit opening Sunday, June 4, at the Anne and John Marion
Center for Photographic Arts and the Fine Arts Gallery, both at The
College of Santa Fe. We wanted to explore where Jewish identity is
today," said Jay Barry Zeiger, project director for Jewish Community
Council of Northern New Mexico, which organized the show. "What
do Jews think of themselves and feel about certain issues? Artists
can express things the average person can't put into words."
Zeiger said he hopes the artworks in the show examine what it means
to be Jewish in America and defeat long‑lasting stereotypes that
for centuries have plagued Jewish people.
"A lot of the Jewish identity is about feeling bad about yourself
because you're Jewish," Zeiger said. 'Through the ages being
Jewish has created a sense of hiding."
Organizers invited artists from around the world to participate in
Jewish Artists: On the Edge. One of those artists, Benny Ferdman,
who lives in Jerusalem, explores the Holocaust, the loss of home
and place, and the transference of home to a new piece of land.
"My artwork explores issues of memory, cultural history and
identity," Ferdman wrote in a statement about his work. Each
participating artist submitted an essay for publication in a catalog
accompanying the works.
"In many ways I see my role as an artist as one of forming and
transforming collected and collective memory into personal memory.
My paintings are affirmations of inheritance and ownership: ownership
of history, ownership of images, ownership of memories."
Belen artists Judy Chicago and her husband, Donald Woodman, collaborated
on a traveling exhibit exploring the Holocaust. Chicago and Woodman
spent eight years traveling the world, visiting Holocaust museums
and archives as well as concentration camps, massacre sights, cemeteries,
death camps and abandoned Jewish ghettos.
They selected historic images from their journey to include in Jewish
Artists: On the Edge.
Geoff Laurence an artist who lives in galisteo submitted a vertical
oil painting installation, Tefillin 1,
Tefillin 11 and Tefillin 111..
"I started thinking about how in all the different cultures of the
world there are different methods of tying yourself to God," Laurence
said. "The tefillin is a small box, containing prayers, that
Jews strap to their heads to indicate their binding to God. There
is a correlation between bondage and the kind of psychic bondage
that we apply to ourselves in order to connect with a higher power.
"On the surface these works seem to be about bondage but in
fact are about being bound to God," Laurence said. Laurence
only found out he was Jewish five years ago, when his father, who
had been interred at the Dachau concentration camp, revealed their
"To identify yourself as a Jew is a loaded thing." Laurence
said. "In this country, with its history of anti‑Semitism, it's
interesting that it now seems to be time to finally identify as Jewish
and what a lot of people have been finding is there's been a general
return to identification with origin. You have African‑American art,
Native American art, Hispanic art, Latin American art but there's
no Jewish‑American art. "That's why this show is important.
It's the first time JewishAmerican art is actually being identified."
Upon discovering his Jewish background, Laurence began to explore
the meaning of
Jewish identity "I've discovered the basis for Jewish identity
seems to be a desperation to find identity," Laurence said. "The
essential theme of being jewish is that our identity is some‑
what questionable or hazardous or lost. "It's not over. I don't
believe there's a person who's Jewish in this country who feels comfortable."
Madeline Coil, a Santa Fe artist, said she approaches her art with
the same intensity as many Jewish people regard the Torah. "My
research is through color, line, texture, shape, and running through
it all is an old thread demanding an awareness of past and a responsibility
to future ‑ an accountability," Coit said,
adding she takes inspiration in her work from early Judaism; the
movements of Jews to Spain, Portugal, Poland, Lithuania and Germany;
the industrial revolution; World War II; the electronic revolution
and Jewish life in America.
"The history since World War II has been so drastic it's affected
everything for people who are Jewish, with huge social changes," Con
said. "They ended up taking it on intellectually as well as
Coit has three pieces in Jewish Artists ‑ Rose, a pop‑up book; The
Big Bamboo, with text and Venetian blind; and Promises iv: a stainless‑steel
"Promises comes from a series of hooks I've done about each
person's promise," Coit said. "How sometimes what you think
is going to develop is very different from what does develop."
Jewish Artists includes a panel discussion about Jewish art from
2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 4, at Tipton Hall, part of the new Visual
Arts Center/Marion center complex at The College of Santa Fe The
panel features several participating artists and curators.
Ori Zarah Soltes, who curated the exhibit, joins artists Met Alexenberg,
dean of the New World College of Art at Miami University; Regine
Basha, curator, writer and cultural affairs officer for the Canadian
Consulate in New York City; artist Dorit Cypis, a curator and writer
who lives in Los Angeles; Sam Erenberg, a Los Angeles artist; as
well as several artists from Santa Fe.
Organizers said they hope Jewish Artists: On the Edge will begin
a national tour following the show's Santa Fe run, visiting the Yeshiva
University Museum in New York City and the 516 Magnifico Artspace
"1 hope non‑Jews will come and see this show and recognize it
as what it's intended to be," Laurence said. "What I hope
it doesn't do is simply be another Jewish show for Jewish people."