Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A workshop about workshops
(papercutting meets Inception)


I had a fascinating experience the other night. I was teaching a workshop in papercutting — but I do that a lot. What made this a different experience was that I was in a class of graduate school students in an education program, and I wasn't really teaching them papercutting; I was actually teaching them about teaching papercutting.

Each of the fellows in the AJU Dream Lab program that I'm a part of this year is doing a similar thing – doing what we do in the classroom but for this graduate school class instead, as part of our efforts to figure out how we can incorporate the arts into traditional Jewish education, to reinvigorate and revitalize it.

The class was led by Dr. Rachel Lerner, Graduate Center for Jewish Education at AJU. The first half of the night was taught by Rabbi Adam Greenwald, who shared with us some fascinating ideas about Passover (and teaching Passover). My workshop went as most of them do – I introduced the subject, the tools, and did a bit on knife safety… and then we got into cutting. Everyone worked on a papercut related to Passover, which they designed themselves. What made it so different for me was that every time I had a moment where I was internally thinking about my process, I was allowed and, in fact, encouraged to speak aloud about the process and generate a discussion. Very meta!

The work that all of the students created was wonderful, and I'm always impressed at how people who have never held a knife before can nonetheless create such beauty with such relevance to our tradition. But on top of that, I was really able to think about how I present and teach, and how I can tell if/what my students are hearing and understanding what I'm saying. The feedback I got from this class enabled me to fine-tune my approach, and think more deeply about my intentions and ways to measure my results.

I think I naturally have a bit of self-doubt when I'm leading a workshop – I don't believe that it affects the process, and students seem to really enjoy it and get a great deal out of it, but nonetheless I do – in my head – sometimes find myself asking myself questions about my approach and efficacy. This was an opportunity to voice those questions out loud, and to improve my technique through interaction with this class and their suggestions and feedback.

In the end, it proved really useful to me – because I think one of the hardest parts of being in a classroom setting in leading a workshop is not always getting feedback on the process from the students. Sometimes they're too young, or they just lack the background to provide feedback on what they've experienced. In this case, the participants were perfectly suited to deliver feedback and suggestions for improvement, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have been in the classroom with them.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Join me this Sunday in Santa Monica for the 2016 "Betzalel Fest"

Join me in Santa Monica (California) this Sunday afternoon, February 28 from 1-4 pm, for Kehillat Ma'arav's "Betzalel Fest" – featuring activities for all ages, including Jewish art displays, musical performances, candle making, kosher wine tasting, creating silk challah covers, challah baking, crafts for kids, and a sign up for future classes. I'll be sharing some recent work and demonstrating papercutting LIVE IN PERSON, with plenty of Band-Aids on hand (just in case).

Thursday, January 28, 2016

"Tree of Life" at Children's Hospital Los Angeles

I am so excited to finally be sharing this with you – my new "Tree of Life," commissioned by Children's Hospital Los Angeles for their new chapel! It's 24" x 36" and it's chock-full – the most super heroes I've even put into one papercut.

I had the chance to see it in its new home for the first time today as the space was officially opened, and it looks fantastic. The whole space does – it's officially named the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation Interfaith Center, 2,400 square feet of "non-denominational indoor and outdoor space will serve as a place of emotional and spiritual respite for CHLA patients." (You can read more about it here.)

It is such an honor to have been asked to create a new papercut for this wonderful space – to be a part of CHLA's goals of "compassionate patient care, leading-edge education of the caregivers of tomorrow and innovative research efforts that impact children at our hospital and around the world." I hope that my "Tree of Life" inspires all who see it – patients, families, and the CHLA professionals – to be strong and to have hope.

"What do you see?" Kid Flash, Squirrel Girl, Green Lantern, Power Pack...
As regular readers of this blog probably know, we Jews call the Torah (known to others as the Bible or the Old Testament) the "tree of Life," and we say that all those who support it are happy. This tree represents our traditions of knowledge and learning, of hope and healing, of happiness and life.

This large and bountiful tree is filled with many different fruits, and features shapes of leaves from trees found throughout Los Angeles: oak, birch, madrone, and willow. Other references to Los Angeles abound.

It is filled with cut-up comics featuring super heroes — individuals who have devoted themselves to helping those who need it — as well as doctors and nurses tending to the sick. (Look for Doctor Strange, Doctor Fate, the Night Nurse, and many others.) Since it's for a Jewish prayer space, it's filled with Jewish heroes (like Kitty Pryde, Batwoman, and Ragman). The fruits are filled with younger super heroes, still learning to be their best selves. (Look for the young hero teams Power Pack, Teen Titans, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and more.) You'll find Bruce Wayne visiting a sick friend in the hospital, Beast Boy getting a checkup, Wiz Kid in his wheelchair working with the Young Avengers... and so much more.

"Tree of Life" is filled with doctors, nurses, and young heroes who strive to be strong and persevere!

It is my hope that all those who look at the tree will find within it their favorite super hero, and see themselves reflected in it as well.

This "Tree of Life" is also a tree of healing. As it happens, the shortest prayer in the Torah is one of healing — five words, eleven letters — when Moses calls upon God in Numbers/Bamidbar 12:13 to heal his sister, Miriam, with the words, “El Na R’fa Na La” – “God, Please, Heal Her Now.” This prayer is found in the trunk, along with words from the “Mi Shebeirach” healing prayer and multiple references to the Etz Chaim (the Tree of Life).

The trunk includes an LA skyline, texts on the "tree of life," and Moses' plaintive prayer to God for healing.

 So – how many super heroes? You wanna know? Here's the list (those with asterisks are young heroes, found in the fruits of the tree):
Aquaman (Arthur Curry)
Arsenic (Gertrude Yorkes)*
Atom (Ray Palmer)
Batgirl (Barbara Gordon)
Batman (Bruce Wayne)
Batwoman (Katherine Kane)
Beast Boy (Garfield Logan)*
Black Canary (Dinah Lance)
Braniac 2
Captain America (Steve Rogers)
Cyborg (Vic Stone)
Cyclops (Scott Summers)
Daredevil (Matt Murdock)
Dazzler (Alison Blaire)
Dr. Fate
Dr. Lamour*
Dr. Mid-Nite
Dr. Strange (Stephen Strange)
Energizer (Katie Power)*
Franklin Richards*
Green Arrow (Oliver Queen)
Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
Green Lantern (John Stewart)
Hawkeye (Clint Barton)
The Hulk (Bruce Banner)
The Human Torch (Johnny Storm)
Iceman (Bobby Drake)
The Invisible Woman (Sue Storm)
Iron Man (Tony Stark)
Kid Flash (Wally West)
Lightning Lass*
Lucy in the Sky (Karolina Dean)*
Magik (Illyana Rasputin)
Marvel Girl/Phoenix (Jean Grey)
Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers)
Night Nurse
Power PackRagman (Rory Regan)
Robin (Dick Grayson)*
Robin (Stephanie Brown)*
Rocket Raccoon
Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde)*
She-Hulk (Jen Walters)
Spider-Man (Peter Parker)
Squirrel Girl (Doreen Green)*
Sunspot (Roberto da Costa)*
Supergirl (Kara Zor-El)
Superman (Clark Kent)
The Thing (Ben Grimm)
Valeria Richards
Vickie Grant*
Wiz Kid (Taki Matsuya)
Wonder Girl (Cassie Sandsmark)*
Wonder Girl (Donna Troy)
Wonder Woman (Diana Prince)
Zero-G (Alex Power)*
The Eleventh Doctor

And you know I always make a list of the comics I use in my pieces – this is a LONG list:
Adventure Comics #507 (Jan 2010)
Adventure Comics Presents Dial H for Hero
#481 (May 1981)
All Star Western #3 (Jan 2012)
Aquaman #35 (Dec 2014)
Avengers #7 (Jan 2011)
Batgirl Special #1 (1988)
Batman #500 (Oct 1993)
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight
#4 (Feb 1990)
Batwoman #3 (Jan 2012)
Claws #3 (Dec 2006)
Convergence: Green Lantern Corps #2 (Jul 2015)
Daredevil #29 (Sep 2013), #294 (Jul 1991)
Doctor Fate #31 (Aug 1991)
Doctor Strange #65 (Jun 1984)
Doctor Who FCBD (2015)
Green Lantern #41 (Aug 2015), #108 (Sep 1978)
Green Lantern: Mosaic #1 (Jun 1992)
Green Lantern: New Guardians #35 (Dec 2014)
Elektra #1 (Jun 2014)
Excalibur #1 (Oct 1988)
Fantastic Four #156 (Mar 1974)
FF #23 (Dec 2012)
Incredible Hulk #28 (Jul 2001)
Infinity Inc. #3 (Jan 2008)
Justice #1 (Oct 2005), #12 (Aug 2007)
Justice League of America #75 (Nov 1969)
Legion ’91 #34 (Dec 1991)
Legion of Super-Heroes #16 (Mar 2013)
Magik #1 (Dec 1983), #4 (Mar 1984)
The New Mutants #87 (Mar 1990)
The New Teen Titans #1 (Aug 1984)
Night Nurse #1 (Jul 2015)
Power Pack #1 (Aug 1984), #12 (Jul 1985),
#21 (Apr 1986), #19 (Feb 1986),
#25 (Aug 1986)
Ragman #1 (Aug 1993)
Runaways #16 (Jul 2006), #19 (Oct 2006),
#7 (Oct 2005)
S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 (May 2015)
Showcase ’93 #7 (Jul 1993)
Siege: Loki #1 (Jun 2010)
Starman #23 (Jun 1990)
Superboy #18 (May 2013), #8 (Aug 2011), Annual #1 (Mar 2013), #5 (May 2011)
Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #27 (Apr 2007)
Superman: Peace on Earth (Jan 1999)
Swamp Thing #22 (Feb 2006)
Tales of the Green Lantern Corps #3 (Jul 1981)
Tales of the Teen Titans #57 (Sep 1985)
Tales of the Thing #1 (May 2005)
Teen Titans #4 (Dec 2003), #23.2 (Nov 2013), #13 (Sep 2004)
The Thing #2 (Feb 2006)
Thor #616 (Dec 2010), #621 (May 2011),
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #7 (Sep 2015)
Wonder Girl #1 (Nov 2007)
X-Men: First Class #4 (Feb 2007)
X-Static #21 (Jun 2004)
X-Terminators #3 (Dec 1988)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

No "broad" puns here, surprisingly.

Had a great visit at the new Broad Museum in Los Angeles, and enjoyed the stunning collection of contemporary (and other twentieth century) work. It's an incredible space – traditional white box in many ways, but with addition of swoopy organic forms on the first floor and the ever-present veil visible through the windows and roof of the third floor galleries. Really great space.

Some of my reflections are in the captions below.

Selfie in front of "the veil." (That's what they call the outer shell.)

So apparently John Baldessari uses "Trixie" for some of his work. Hunh.

I've retitled this Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, "I will finish what you started."

Glenn Ligon was represented with a series of "runaway slave" posters that describe the artist.

Me, in Yayoi Kusama's "Infinity Mirrored Room." Transcendant experience.

Detail from Jasper Johns' "Flag." Up close you can really see the collage work.

Another detail from Jasper Johns' "Flag." Hard to capture it with an iPhone.

Detail from Jasper Johns' "White Flag." Wait for it...

Jasper Johns' "White Flag." Have you guessed yet that I'm a Johns fan?

Kara Walker is doing some incredible cutout work. This is a look through a vitrine toward her mural, "African't."

Sorry, Ellsworth Kelly, but there's a huge mistake in the brochure about where "Green Angle" is located. HUGE.

The Broads like Jeff Koons, and there are a lot of his works on display.

I discovered Barbara Kruger when I was in college learning about design and art. Still love her work.

Detail from a Roy Lichtenstein piece. Ben Day dots FTW!

Lichtenstein sculpture. Works weird effects on your eyeballs in person.

Ed Ruscha is such a Southern California artist, you know?

Looking down into "the vault" – where the rest of the collection is stored.

Another shot of "the veil" which covers the museum.

This Andy Warhol piece is ON THE FLOOR, which is just perfect.

I discovered the work of Christopher Wool in the art movie, "[Untitled]" – stunning big pieces here.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thank you for a great 2015

Whew! It's been a great year, and I am so pleased to have shared it with you!

Workshops up and down the West Coast (including Congregation Kol Ami, Temple Beth Hillel, and  Temple Ahavat Shalom), the new windows at Maimonides Jewish Day School in Portland, my annual residency at URJ Camp Newman, commissions galore, an enormous ketubah featuring Adam Strange and Emma Frost, winning a juror's award in "Heroes & Villains" at the Smithsonian-affiliated Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center, the opening of my latest show "Women of Valor and Other Super Heroes" at National Council of Jewish Women/Los Angeles, participating in the Jerusalem Biennale, presenting "To Boldly Go" to William Shatner... and so much more! Too much to put in one graphic, in fact!

To paraphrase "Hamilton" – I'll see you on the other side of the year...

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Oregon Jewish Life

There's a nice write-up in the January 2016 issue of Oregon Jewish Life about my appearance with William Shatner in Portland last month. Here's an excerpt:
Jewish-themed papercuts generally don’t conjure up visions of Star Trek. References to Jews beautifying commandments with this colorful, baroque folk art date to 1345. Symbols and inscriptions include biblical passages, Stars of David and the Zodiac – complete with fantastic animals. Captain Kirk and his Starship Enterprise are unlikely candidates. Unless, of course, you’re Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik.

Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

2015 Jerusalem Biennale

I've finally received a copy of the catalog for the 2015 Jerusalem Biennale, and I'm so happy to be able to share a few photos out here. The biennale is over, but the sharing never stops!

The Jerusalem Biennale is dedicated to exploring the places in which Contemporary Art and the Jewish World of Content meet. It is a stage for professional artists who create today and refer in their work to Jewish thought spirit tradition or experience to exhibit their work in Jerusalem. In 2015 it included 13 exhibitions in 10 venues, including exhibitions from New York, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Barcelona and (of course) Jerusalem.

I was honored to be included in the "7,567 mi" exhibition put together by the Jewish Artists Initiative and curated by Anne Hromadka and Georgia Freedman-Harvey. The Jewish Artists Initiative (JAI) is an artist-run organization committed to fostering visual art by Jewish artists and promoting dialogue about Jewish identity and related issues among members of the arts community.

The catalog is, of course, bilingual.

List of JAI members in the "7,567 mi" exhibition.

Exhibition statement from the curators.

"7,567 mi" explored the physical, spiritual and cultural connections between Jerusalem and Los Angeles-based members of the JAI. Despite the 7,567 miles that separate our cities, we share a great deal in common.

My two papercuts, in the biennale catalog.

Two of the six papercuts in my "Paper Mishnah" series were included in the exhibition, and flown to Jerusalem to be shown in the Emek Refaim venue of the biennale: "Seeds" and "Women."

It is such a thrill to have my works listed in Hebrew as well as English!
(Even though I include a gimmel in my last name and they went with a more traditional Swedish pronounciation.)

It was truly a pleasure to be a part of this exhibition, alongside my JAI colleagues.

My two pieces, in situ at the Emek Refaim site.