it does not belong to me

I like to test boundaries and explore contradictions.

If there is one quality that embodies my life it is that I constantly struggle with ideas, values, beliefs and practices that appear to be so obviously conflicting to the rest of the world. I consider myself to be an Orthodox Jew and a Feminist, and in so doing I struggle with melding a patriarchal 3,000-year old tradition with a 21st-century college-educated Feminist perspective.

As an artist, I find the solitary moments in my studio to be the most profound moments of my life; yet, I seek the tradition and ritual that binds my to a community. I love to study Jewish texts that date back thousands of years and find new insights and ways of reading ambiguities contained within them, and then deal with them in the aesthetics of abstract art. I find meaning in the struggle to prove that these qualities can coexist in my life and in my art.

These tensions imbue my paintings and drawings with deeply personal meanings. In them, I explore my religious and philosophical questions and ideas. Often inspired by texts that I’ve read, I later return to explore these in my oeuvre.  One of my most recent series, Upstream, evokes these struggles. The artwork is based on a tale found in the Talmud, a book of the Jewish oral tradition, in which a duck is shown to be kosher if it is swimming upstream.  I loved the notion of the tradition heralding the animal for having the strength to go against the stream.

For these paintings I used a methodology that I have created over the past ten years for taking these ideas, developing my own personal symbolism and gestures, and turning these into abstract artwork.  I began with imagery from photographs that I took of ducks in my neighborhood.  Then I created works on paper using the images to create solvent transfers as well as iron-on transfer on fabric.

Simultaneously, I created small wooden panels and works on canvas (which vary in scale from 8” x 8” to 34” x 56”). Each series has a palette with a symbolic set of colors that reference the ideas in the work. Finally I use objects that symbolically relate to the series to help create unique marks and textures.  For example in the Upstream series I used feathers to paint with.  The symbolic use of something related to the duck bespeaks my educational experiences.

As I began to finish some of the small paintings on paper I then made sketches from them to create highly finished pastel paintings.  Lastly, I create collages using the same imagery and paper cut outs with Japanese and Thai handmade papers.

My process means that at any given time I am working on 16 small works on paper, a couple of works on wood panel, two to four works on canvas, two collages and a pastel.  This process allows me to challenge my brain to work in unexpected ways. The small works are delicate and intimate yet the process is fast and immediate.  The works on canvas and collage have sometimes years of marks layered upon each other. There is a power in a single brush stroke in a larger work that cannot be attained in small paintings. Finally, I create pastel works that are tranquil and organized, though in an unusual format of an abstract work.

Like the concepts that underlie my painting, my process involves a melding of the new ideas and traditional methods into my own style as a symbolic gestural painter. I love the way Titian coated his canvas with a color so I create a light wash from one of the colors in the palette that I use. My gestural marks are inspired by de Kooning, Krasner, and Pollock.  In some ways the works reference Susan Rothenberg, yet the symbolism and stories behind them are specifically related to my tradition.  I was raised in an era where Pollock saying that his works had nor or little content was not fashionable.  I was taught to have thought and meaning behind my works to make them relevant.

Like most artists today I am a post-Modernist.  We borrow from tradition and create what Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the founder of the Modern Orthodox movement in Judaism, calls chiddushei or insights.  For Rabbi Soloveitchik these are insights into reading text.  For me these insights are for both reading text and creating new methods and language of painting.

Columbus, Ohio
December 2011