Art Exhibition at JTS Will Explore Transformations in Identity and Contemporary Jewish Life

The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) is pleased to announce the opening of Traversing Tradition: Transformation in and of Contemporary Jewish Life, the fourth visual arts exhibition in the JTS Arts Advisory Board’s ongoing initiative to create and sustain arts programming at JTS. Installations in a wide range of media–including video, photography, and neon–by artists Tamar Ettun, Jake Levin, Angela Strassheim, Silvio Wolf, Gil Yefman, and Sarah Zell Young will explore personal and cultural transformations, drawing inspiration from Jewish texts and traditions associated with dietary laws, prayer, birth, and death. On view beginning September 10, 2015, the exhibition will emerge in two stages during the academic year as JTS begins a major renovation and expansion of its campus facilities, creating a centralized and modernized residence hall, a prominent auditorium and conference center, and a state-of-the-art library.

“Anticipating the dramatic makeover that the JTS campus is about to undergo, the curator and advisory board’s Visual Arts Committee, co-chaired by Susan Chevlowe and Debra Z. Edelman, have assembled a group of gifted artists, whose works reflect on the theme of transformation,” said Dr. Alan Cooper, director of the Arts Advisory Board, Elaine Ravich Professor of Jewish Studies, and JTS provost. “Each of the works on display is a beautiful and thought-provoking commentary on that theme.”

The Installations

Tamar Ettun is a sculptor and performance artist whose work examines cultural and psychological narratives. Installed within a site-specific meditation canopy, her video Standing Prayer (Amidah) (2008) transforms the biblical practice of aliya l’regel, the thrice-yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem, into a personal ritual exploring the expanse where religion, art, spirituality, and the everyday intermix. On view through November 2015.

Jake Levin‘s art practice explores the social, ethical, and cultural conflicts manifested in food and the ways we eat. His installation of Mashiach’s Pig is an exploration of the pig as a symbol of the messianic age. Drawing from Jewish commentaries in the Judaic tradition of inquiry, Levin considers the paradoxical meaning given to the pig in Jewish culture and the allegorical implications these interpretations hold for the larger state of food production and consumption today. On view through May 19, 2016.

Angela Strassheim creates images that capture intimate moments of reverie during pauses in the commotion of everyday life. For Traversing Tradition she pairs portraits of subjects from diverse communities in Israel with still lifes inspired by the food in her mother-in-law’s kitchen. Musings on identity and tradition, these images reflect the multiplicity of transformations inherent in the process of growing up and defining one’s self. Strassheim explores these changes both in her own life and as they are experienced by the individuals she photographs. On view through May 19, 2016.

Silvio Wolf uses moving images, still projections, light, and sound to engage the history and symbolism of specific venues. In spring 2016, Wolf will transform JTS’s entrance into an experiential threshold of Jewish study and spirituality using natural and artificial light to create “high-tech” stained glass windows. Titled Double Doors, this site-specific installation will be a participatory space of meditation amid the everyday activities of public life. On view January 19 through May 19, 2016. Double Doors is made possible with the generous support of Duggal.

Gil Yefman deconstructs myths from numerous traditions to create spaces where characters with elusive gender, sexual, and political identities become heroes. Zygote, originally created in 2010, will be refabricated in JTS’s courtyard in spring 2016 as a site symbolizing the freedom for people of all gender and sexual identities to grow and thrive. A living sculpture comprising chromosome-shaped dolls sewn from fabric and filled with seeded grass, Zygote will bloom under a rainbow lamp. On view April 4 through May 19, 2016.

Sarah Zell Young explores themes of Judaism, feminism, and the body. For Traversing Tradition, she will install a neon sculpture, a Duratrans print, and videos that examine the figure of the golem (a being formed from clay, then brought to life through mystical practices) in Jewish folklore. Young’s installation will visualize some of these practices and consider the golem as a metaphor for the animating impact of the divine on viewers’ own lives. On view through May 19, 2016.

Exhibition Curator

Rebecca Pristoop is an independent curator and art historian. She has organized numerous exhibitions in New York and served as curatorial assistant and research assistant at the Jewish Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. She is the recipient of a grant from The Foundation for Contemporary Arts and a research award from the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute. Her exhibitions have been featured in such publications as the Architect’s Newspaper and Yediot America.

Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen established the Arts Advisory Board in spring 2011 for the purpose of creating and sustaining arts initiatives throughout JTS’s five schools. Together with JTS faculty and lay leaders, the board consists of artists and other professionals from a variety of visual, musical, performing, and literary arts organizations, businesses, and foundations across the United States. Its mission focuses on programs and projects with distinct creative and educational objectives that can be integrated throughout JTS curricula.

High-resolution images available upon request.