June 21 – August 23, 2018
Crossing The Threshold
Featuring work by the Jewish Artists’ Laboratory. The Jewish Artists’ Laboratory, now in its sixth year, explores specific themes through study and art making, bringing together a diverse group of artists who have an interest in the relationship between Jewish thought and creativity.
This year, nearly 35 artists spent eight months studying and exploring the theme of Crossing the Threshold. This topic presented a multitude of opportunities to explore how thresholds are reflected in Jewish rituals and holidays, and the significance of Jewish rituals and holidays, and the significance of thresholds in its many forms. This exhibit showcases a large array of media and subject matter around this expansive theme.
ARTISTS INCLUDE: Susan Armington, Robyn Awend (Lab Coordinator), Carolyn Light Bell, Jordyn Feiger Bomberg, Jaymee Chanen, Gloria Cooper, Toni Dachis, Sandra Felemovicius, Suzanne Fenton, Jonathan Gross, Rani Halpern, Bonnie Heller, Ann Ginsburgh-Hofkin, Sylvia Horwitz, Sheri Klein, Anita Konikoff, Alison Morse, Gayle Novick, Dina O’Sullivan, Diane Pecoraro, Paula Leiter Pergament, Kris Prince, Sarah Routman, Jan Rubenstein, David Sherman, Noam Sienna, Aaron Silver, Diane Silverman, Judy Snitzer, Susan Weinberg (Resident Writer), Rochelle Woldorsky, Sharon Zweigbaum
In partnership with The Midwest Jewish Artists’ Lab and Beth El Synagogue. Generously supported by The Covenant Foundation.
Reception: Thursday, June 21 6 – 8 PM
Artist Presentations: 7 PM
Free and open to the public.
BLESS OUR COMING AND OUR GOING
By Rabbi Alexander Davis, Artists’ Lab Facilitator
“Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” -Deuteronomy 6:9
The Torah commands us to write teachings on the doors of our homes and our city gates. That is, write them directly on the doorposts. Such was the practice among ancient Egyptians and Samaritans. And it remains a tradition in the Muslim community. For Jews of the Second Temple period (530 BCE-70 CE), however, this practice was modified. Instructions were written on parchment and placed in a case. These “mezuzot” were then affixed to doorposts. This is how the practice is observed today.
According to Jewish law, it is the hand-written parchment that makes a mezuzah kosher. At the same time, over the centuries, the case itself has been imbued by artists with a beauty and significance all its own. Today, mezuzot come in all shapes, sizes and styles. They are made out of silver, glass, ceramic, wood, even Legos! Still, whatever the design, the case is ultimately but a container for a scroll, an outer covering that protects or perhaps, draws attention to a holy teaching.
In this way, mezuzot are metaphors for art. The design element of an art piece is a vehicle for a deeper message. Such is the case in this exhibit, Crossing the Threshold. Over the course of the past year, artists from around the community gathered to study texts of Jewish tradition. They entered a dialogue with ancient sages and contemporary colleagues, sat with new ideas and eventually, fashioned an original creation infused with the message and spirit of Torah.
It has been an honor learning with and from members of the Minneapolis Jewish Artists’ Lab. In our studies, we explored thresholds of time and space, physical thresholds and thresholds as a metaphor. We examined the Bible’s description of Joshua entering the Land of Israel, the Psalmist’s vision of the gates of the Temple in Jerusalem, the mitzvah of placing Chanukkah lamps by our doorsteps, and the Torah’s allusive reference to women serving at the entrance of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Contemporary issues such as immigrants crossing America’s borders and our own personal stories about crossing boundaries naturally made their way into our discussions, giving our conversations added layers of relevance.
A threshold is a place of transition where we move from here to there, from inside to outside, from known to unknown. Strategically located in that liminal space, the mezuzah calls out, “May those who enter and those who leave be blessed.” And that is our hope for viewers of Crossing the Threshold. May the images and words challenge and inspire us to make the thresholds in our lives and in our lands places of blessing.
Crossing the Threshold Exhibition
This work offers a doorway from an earthen space of ancient texts into someplace deeper – a place that is both darker and more mysterious, and also radiates a strange luminescence. It’s an invitation like that of the Jewish Arts Lab, to consider what has come before us, texts and concepts that resonate, that have built our substrate, and go further in.
If we stripped away our physical selves, how would someone know it is you?
We are each composed of many identities that shape who we are as unique individuals: race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, class, nationality, ability and more. Some of these identities may define us and some may confine us. Some of these identities may offer us privilege while others may marginalize us – as defined by cultural and societal “norms.”
In the Jewish Artists’ Lab this year, we explored the topic of crossing thresholds as they relate to geography, time, Jewish laws, gender and so much more. This print explores, on a personal level, the dichotomy of being privileged in some aspects of my own identity and marginalized in others. Through the use of word fragments, shared letters are revealed and new shapes are discovered between the threshold of these two opposing words.
The privilege of a lifetime is being (able to be) who you are. . .on ongoing journey as we evolve through life.
A Radiant Bridge
Photography and Poetry
Thingvellir National Park, Iceland, Site of the Icelandic Parliament
Dawn, December 17, 2017
At the intersection of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, I was awed by the site’s sheer, unapproachable magnificence.
I took a few steps up but dared not cross: too slippery.
So much of our experience is simply bearing witness.
We stand at thresholds throughout life. Some we cross. Some give us pause.
Sensing and accepting the power of the unknowable strengthens us.
We are looking at the face of God.
In the poem, I do not stop and go back.
There is an allure. There is a choice.
In the photograph, it is important to note
I did not enhance color. The image is exactly what is and what was.
I was tempted to walk further to view the expanse beyond,
but could not cross that threshold.
Crossing the Threshold
--by Carolyn Light Bell
Balancing on an icy bridge
I tread planks, slow my pace.
New footing, new language,
No need to describe
It dips down, elusive,
Silken layers of time
Joy and gratitude
filling my spirit
with the sacred.
Poetry by Jaymee Chanen
Drawings by Gayle Novick
The Goldene Medina, the country that glitters that was best for the Jews, was the dream of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe at the turn of the century. With their fighting spirit and trepidation, they crossed many thresholds to escape religious persecution. They carried their prayer books, candlesticks, mezuzahs, Torah, and their love of learning across oceans to a country that would become the home to their future generations.
Sadie’s Journey exemplifies the Jewish immigrant experience. With her precious Sabbath candlesticks lighting her way to America, Sadie held them close to her heart. Her prayers gave her hope that the gates would be open to her family and she could live in a country without fear.
From a farmer’s wife, living on the Prairie in North Dakota to her home in North Minneapolis, Sadie lived the American dream. With her husband Yankel (Jacob) they raised seven children and had twenty-one grandchildren. Sadie’s voyage to America was her favorite story to tell her family. She also recounted the dark days when the Russian Cossacks ravaged her village and threatened her family and friends.
When Sadie’s daughter Faye passed away the candlesticks were then passed on to me. As I chant the Sabbath prayer, I light a candle for my grandmother Sadie and for all those who seek freedom. The candle lights sway, the candle lights flicker.
Jordy Feiger Bomberg
Crossing the Threshold into my Pranamaya Kosha
A core precept of Yoga is the belief that everything in the universe is composed of energy and consciousness (Prana). The Pranamaya Koshais the energetic or vital body, linking physical body and mind. I experienced my Pranamaya Kosha in 2012 while studying ParaYoga™.
Many times during or after practice I am awakened to clarity and creativity. In the sweet stillness I am able to travel over the bridge from the gross physical to the more subtle, numinous (spiritual, unearthly) realm.
After an Extensions asana (exercise) to create energy in the spine, a savasana(resting pose) focused with So Hum mantra (“I am that” referring to all of creation), and then, “sitting tall like a yogi”, with deep effortless awareness, I began Prana Dharana- a pranamaya(breath practice) filing the brain with presence or light. Prana was revealed to me as a silver thread from the base of my brain to the base of my spine. A sacred stream through which to see and experience the infinite. Further expanding that stream of consciousness, I began floating up - my body rising, my head getting larger and being able to see the entire room, even behind me. My experience was so vivid and real I was afraid of what would happen if I kept rising. I startled myself out of the dharana(concentration).
This awareness of spirituality can be understood as what German Lutheran theologian, philosopher, and comparative religionist Rudolf Otto described as “mysterium tremendum,” a mystery that is at once terrifying and fascinating.
I am grateful to David Sherman for bringing to life my mysterious experience of my Pranamaya Kosha and helping me see my artwork less literally. Studying Thresholds with Rabbi Davis has inspired me to walk through the doorways of collaboration and photography.