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In my post yesterday I mentioned a new book of Jewish holiday crafts, and one of our regular readers expressed interest in learning about Jewish art.
You know the old saying, “I don’t know art, but I know what I like”? Well, I love to look at art, but I’m not a real expert. You aren’t going to believe this, but my first art history class in college had a midterm that was all about the architecture of medieval cathedrals and I couldn’t memorize the difference between the nave and the transept.
The question does give me the opportunity to share some cool things I’ve found on the web. First, Menachem Wecker, an arts writer who wrote a great piece for us about synagogue art called “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Synagogue”, has a blog Iconia where he covers religion and art in general. He was just interviewed on Mima’amakim, a Jewish arts website. (I know the site because they also interviewed Yonah Lavery, and featured my favorite of her Talmudcomics.net comics.) Wecker has some interesting things to say about Jewish art in general.
He also did a dynamite piece on My Jewish Learning about Siona Benjamin, an Indian Jewish artist whose work draws on all kinds of influences. The images included with this piece are amazing. I love this kind of cross-cultural art.
I always want to know what instructions are out there for creating Jewish art forms like the ones that Sara mentioned in her comment: Jewish papercuts, micrography and other forms of calligraphy. I haven’t found much. What has thrilled me has been finding the beautiful website of The Pomegranate Guild, an association of Jewish needle artists, with their mouth-watering list of links to Jewish needlework resources. For many years I used to torture myself with the paper catalog for California Stitchery, now called Crafty Needle–but I only made one needlepoint. I can’t really do that stuff since I’m killing my hands with constant typing … and anyway my one needle point matzah cover lurches to the left in an alarming way. If I could knit, I might want to buy some of the great Patterns for Peacebuilders–you can knit all the objects in a Passover seder and benefit peace in the Middle East! (I don’t knit, though, I just collect links on the internet.)
I’m torn between wanting to learn more about Eastern European Jewish arts like the trompe-l’œil ceilings I saw in synagogues when I visited Ukraine in 1990 and the wooden carving tradition explored in this exhibition and wishing I knew more about non-Ashkenazi arts traditions. Luckily there are a lot of new Jewish art museums–Cara Nissman wrote a piece for us about how they reach out to interfaith families. We should all get a lot more opportunities to learn.
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