My art-making is my means of examining and disassembling inherited systems of judgements encoded in me by my Jewish Fundamentalist upbringing, the heritage I left at 21, breaking away form group to solo identity.
Tearing, cutting, adding subtracting, pouring peeling, marking erasing are my processes across disciplines of painting, photography, drawings and ephemeral sculpture.
From the Talmud, 6,200 pages of patriarchal, Jewish Fundamentalist rabbinical law and ethics, I tear pages. I wet, fold, roll them into Talmud Dreds, a hybrid of Hasidic sidelocks and Rasta dreads, symbols of belief that I see here on my streets in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, worn by cultures geographically sharing the same turf yet acknowledge no common humanity. Streets where my Father lived 85 years ago, where I unknowingly moved to seeking plentiful space and affordable rent.
Re-forming Talmud pages, I reframe how the words on the page connect, claiming my right to record what is Judaism. I add these re-formed words to my paintings - layered multiple paintings I paint on one canvas, one over the next, parts of which I peel and whittle away. I repeat this process over and over, over long spans that reflect the length of time it takes for old ways of seeing to die and for the seedings of new beginnings.
At night at 3 AM I form letters on paper. These self-portraits echo the day, the buzz the cadence the absence, the stridency, reflecting especially now in the climate of today, my sense of vulnerability.
July - August 2015
(Talmud Dreds and Tefilin Bindings)
I kiss it. It's instinctual. Since very little, I’ve been taught: Lift the book up, bring forward, press the cover to my lips, pucker, pull in, open, release - the faintest whisper of orgasm - though in my single digit years, I cannot know this.
Inside are holy words and it is fidelity to what these words carry that I softly caress. These words, black ink on white paper, the Talmud, written by male sages who praise The Lord, extoll His virtues, ponder His brilliance, reasoning, motives for the laws that He has decreed to govern every moment of life, that I have been raised, as my parents and grandparents and greats before me, to follow and revere absolutely.
All male. On the 6,200 pages of written word that is the Talmud, the collection of Jewish laws and traditions, there is not one direct female voice. The years were 200 BCE to 500 CE when the Talmud was codified and to be fair, perhaps nowhere during this time period were there female voices overt in a position of authority. Still, as ancient as the Talmud is, the contents mandated my life and as a female they granted me no power. They were also off-limits since access to the Talmud was men only. So when I came to stand at the fork in the road, the choice to leave Judaism or have my spirit die, I chose the former.
It's decades later, the year 2015 in my studio in Bed-Stuy. After painting large abstract canvases with encoded narratives, I'm about to take the plunge and wrestle with, reveal overtly, recognizable symbols.
I Rip (a page of the Talmud off the book spine).
I Tear it. Fold it. Wet it. Curl it. Stack it. Dry. Uncurl.
This form I'm creating, I call it a Talmud Dred.
Talmud Dred. By manipulating the Talmud pages, I’m taking ownership, inserting the feminine where previously the right to have a voice, be heard was denied me. By asserting my right to this voice, I form a space where I can be safe inside my heritage, and so return. Safe, I can open my borders of who I call my community.
Safe, I can reconnect with the warmth and love of my childhood.
March 23, 2015
IN MID-AIR AND NO SAFE LANDING
Back in the States and everyday life, I pushed deep down into denial "Is This All", until I could almost no longer breathe, until me, the essence, knew if I stayed I would die, cause, suffocation. I was fortunate in a way because I had achieved everything that was supposed to make me happy and this I was clearly not.
Nineteen months later I jumped ship so to speak, left my marriage, jettisoned, lept into the waves. What I did not know when my feet left the deck was that in choosing to define myself, my happiness, I was leaving a life, a faith, a society with very high boxed walls with glued-tight mortised corners constructed to control, to keep out life's randomness. And I? When my feet left the deck I ripped clear through my safety net.
June 30 2017
What is this moment when we elect to live by our own authority? And how many moments over and over does this one singular moment repeat, and yet again it is the choice: self and the contingent scary unknown which each time remains just as scary, just as life threatening with all the mind circuits close to crashing overload beeping blaring flashing "Warning, Danger, Stay Away, or step on to what would appear to be the more predictable path though of course there is really no such thing. And what are the underlying drivers? Is it fear? Courage? Shame? Drive? Pride? Instinct? Righteousness? Rightness? Anxiety? Confusion? There are so many strands to gently pick apart, or not, to be able to take the next step not only towards freedom but in freedom.
It is 35 years later since that ocean leap.
Last week I returned to Lawrence, LI for my 40th high school reunion. We were 28 girls in our graduating class. There were 28 girls in our graduating grade. Our high school, Torah Academy for Girls was in it's young days of existence. I had seen noone in my class in 18 years and that last episode of seeing some, then, lasted 2 hours. Many I would be seeing for the first time in 40 years. I went because of my friend Judy. I went because I had come to a place of openness more often than not, of accepting that we each have a right to choose how we live to get beyond the very human need of having those around us mirror our own life choices.
2000 - 2013
My paintings reflect the continuing struggle between the desire to control life's journey and the inevitability of life's fundamental impermanence, a conflict evidenced in both it's process and content.
Each painting, begun and completed consecutively, is repeatedly resolved then purposefully destroyed when a new painting is applied on top. Acrylic paint is pooled then gouged with razor blades; paper is glued then abraded and stripped away; pigment is brushed on, then intentionally cracked; tape is fastened then torn; leaving a terrain of jagged edges, crevices and piles of sculpted matter that shape an encoded narrative. The present in it's immediacy is formed by the shadowed past.
The resulting works hope to reflect the quagmires of thoughtful existence - the complexity of doubt, seduction of certainty and the role of mortality in regeneration.