Sunday, May 15, 2016

Temple Ahavat Shalom Jubilee Gala – "Windws on the Bima"

We had a spectacular time last time at the Temple Ahavat Shalom Jubilee Gala, celebrating the first 50 years of our existence as a kehillah kedoshah – a holy community. To mark the occasion I created "Windows on the Bima" – a papercut in two seaprately-framed parts inspired by the stained glass windows in our sanctuary on either side of the ark — the pillars of fire which protected and guided the Hebrews on their journey to the land of Israel.

Windows on the Bima (Left)
12" x 36"
Mixed media

Windows on the Bima (Right)
12" x 36"
Mixed media

The papercuts are from the perspective of a member of the congregation, looking up at the ark, during a moment of a prayer —  for this is a moment when the community stands together, with a unified purpose and intent.

Detail of one of the eight sections in "Windows on the Bima."

Made of cut-up comics, the papercuts feature heroes representing the ideals of the synagogue; within the flames can be found Superman, Supergirl, Batman, Wonder Woman, Iron Man, Captain America, The Flash, Thor, Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and more. Inspiring words from these comics are scattered throughout as well, representing the peace and love found within this community. And of course, there are a few instances of the number “50” and some comics from 1965, when Temple Ahavat Shalom was founded.

Action Comics #844 (Dec 2006)
Amazing Spider-Man King-Size Special #4 (1967)
Astonishing X-Men #12 (Aug 2005)
Captain America #336 (Dec 1987)
DC Comics Presents #32 (Apr 1981)
Fantastic Four #8 (July 2013)
The Flash #152 (May 1965); #1 (Jun 2010)
Grayson #5 (Feb 2015)
Green Arrow #50 (Jul 2005)
Marvel Team-Up #60 (Apr 1984)
Marvel Two-in-One #59 (Jan 1980)
The Mighty Thor #374 (Dec 1983)
The Phantom #10 (Feb 1965)
Superman #3 (May 1987)
Ultimate Avengers #13 (Oct 2010)
Wonder Woman #603 (Nov 2010)
The original was auctioned off at the gala, and we produced a limited edition of 20 signed, numbered prints to raise additional money to support the activities of the synagogue.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Truth, Justice, Peace – Captain America and Rabbi Steve Sirbu

Truth, Justice, Peace
16" x 20"
Mixed media

Truth, Justice, Peace is an original papercut that was commissioned as a gift for Rabbi Steven Sirbu by Temple Emeth of New Jersey on the occasion of their 2016 Spring Gala honoring him (this past weekend) on the occasion of his “bar mitzvah year” with that congregation. He's also a long-time friend.

The piece is inspired by Rabbi Sirbu’s work for the congregation and his dedication to truth, justice, and peace — with words from Pirkei Avot which tell us that the world is sustained by those three concepts. However, the middle concept in Pirkei Avot, in the original Hebrew, is דין (“deen”) which is usually translated as “judgment.” Artistic license transforms that word to צדק (“tzedek”). Supported by these words is the world itself, with New Jersey in central position.

The papercut is made of cut-up comic books featuring Captain America, symbol of truth, justice, and peace — a man who has dedicated his life to helping others and serving higher causes. Captain America’s real name, of course, is Steve Rogers — another connection to Rabbi Sirbu. Within the Hebrew we find words celebrating those qualities for which Captain America and Rabbi Sirbu fight, as well as references to the original words from Pirkei Avot and a reference to Temple Emeth.

This piece includes:
  • Captain America #263 (Jan 1986), #322 (Oct 86), #333-338 (Oct 87 – Feb 88), #413 (Mar 1993), #600 (Aug 2009), #634 (Sep 2012), #636 (Nov 2012), #12 (Dec 2013)
  • Captain America – Marvel Knights #14 (Aug 2003)
  • Avengers #501 (Oct 2004)
  • Ultimate New Ultimates #1 (May 2010)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Pillars of Fire at Temple Ahavat Shalom Gala

Two weeks to go until the annual gala at Temple Ahavat Shalom, and I'm nearly done with the TWO BIG PIECES I'm creating for the fund-raising auction. They're based on the stained glass windows in the sanctuary, and they are going to be great – so here's a teaser image to whet your appetite.

Details on the gala – including ticket info a phone number if you're curious about the auction items – are right here:

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.