Blog

Black Lives Matter in a tallit – large poster

June 4, 2020 | Filed in:

Large format poster

We need to do more and say more and be louder about our support of justice work in this country. Saying nothing is supporting the oppressive, unjust, and racist institutions that have been and continue to devalue Black lives.

I’ve made available a larger size poster of my Black Lives Matter wrapped in a tallit papercut. Please hang this poster in your synagogue, temple, JCC, church, community center, and home. Make sure that all of your members and visitors know that you support justice, that Black Lives Matter, and that we have a shared responsibility.

Hanging this artwork is one way you can be louder, spark conversation in Jewish and community gathering spaces, prompt policy changes within our own institutions and raise awareness for the ways that we can do better.

Suggested minimum amount: $36. If you can afford to pay more, then donate more; any extra over printing and shipping costs will go to the Minneapolis organizations listed on the page.


Details about the poster

Black Lives Matter text, enveloped in a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl, with sacred text below. This idea was formed from the hot fires of my frustration and feelings of helplessness. I want to believe that art can make a difference, can communicate more deeply, can bring peoples together, can change the world — but my faith often flags. Maybe each piece can only be a small step, hopefully in the right direction, for humanity.

Hebrew Text

The Hebrew text is from the Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5 and means: “Anyone who destroys a life is considered to have destroyed an entire world; and anyone who saves a life has saved an entire world.”

Design Notes

I had a hard time designing this papercut. I knew that I wanted the tallit to be enveloping, hugging, holding the English text, but I didn’t want to *cut* the tallit. However, ultimately, I decided to cut the letters out, cut with my knife into the tallit form; this was difficult. I believe that the meaning to understand from this is that racism — and the fact that “Black Lives Matter!” ever even had to be stated, insisted upon, shouted to combat the lies we see enacted by much of our society — cuts into my Jewish experience, and my life, and demands a Jewish response.

 

Art/Poetry Fundraiser

May 18, 2020 | Filed in:

I was invited to participate in an Art/Poetry COVID-relief fundraiser by poet Ari Satok.

I am also cutting three limited edition hand-cut papercuts of the design.

Visit the fundraiser website to learn more.

 

Exhibit teaser – new piece #6

February 5, 2020 | Filed in:

This new piece will be fully revealed at the exhibit and I’m particularly pleased with how this one was ultimately framed (framing not pictured).

 

Exhibit teaser – new piece #5

February 2, 2020 | Filed in:

The opening for my exhibit at Mount Olive is only one week away!

Here’s another teaser for a new piece to be revealed at the exhibit.

 

Exhibit teaser – new piece #4

January 30, 2020 | Filed in:

Finished another new piece, this one out of difficult and frustrating thicker paper. Full piece to be revealed on Sunday at the exhibit opening!

 

Exhibit teaser – in progress

January 28, 2020 | Filed in:

I’m working on this piece for the exhibit, but don’t know if it will be done on time!

The exhibit will be up through the 26th of April!

Come to the opening reception on February 9th at 2:30pm, and remember that right after the reception is a free concert at the church of a children’s choir. You can also visit the art at other times; church is typically open from 9-3 M-F, and you can call the church office to arrange a visit during other hours. Mount Olive is located at 3045 Chicago Ave, in Minneapolis.

 

Exhibit teaser – new piece #3

January 25, 2020 | Filed in:

Yet another new piece which you can see for the very first time at the exhibit opening on Feb 9th! Here’s a teaser:

The exhibit will be up through the 26th of April!

Come to the opening reception on February 9th at 2:30pm, and remember that right after the reception is a free concert at the church of a children’s choir. You can also visit the art at other times; church is typically open from 9-3 M-F, and you can call the church office to arrange a visit during other hours. Mount Olive is located at 3045 Chicago Ave, in Minneapolis.

 

Exhibit teaser – new piece #2

January 24, 2020 | Filed in:

I’ve completed a second new piece, which you can see for the very first time at the exhibit opening on Feb 9th! Here’s a teaser:

The exhibit will be up through the 26th of April!

Come to the opening reception on February 9th at 2:30pm, and remember that right after the reception is a free concert at the church of a children’s choir. You can also visit the art at other times; church is typically open from 9-3 M-F, and you can call the church office to arrange a visit during other hours. Mount Olive is located at 3045 Chicago Ave, in Minneapolis.

 

Exhibit teaser – new piece #1

January 22, 2020 | Filed in:

I’ve completed a new piece, which you can see for the very first time at the exhibit opening on Feb 9th! Here’s a teaser:

The exhibit will be up through the 26th of April!

Come to the opening reception on February 9th at 2:30pm, and remember that right after the reception is a free concert at the church of a children’s choir. You can also visit the art at other times; church is typically open from 9-3 M-F, and you can call the church office to arrange a visit during other hours. Mount Olive is located at 3045 Chicago Ave, in Minneapolis.

 

Exhibit teasers

January 20, 2020 | Filed in:

Thinking of going to the exhibit opening on February 9th? Have a look at some of these teaser images of pieces that will be in the show.

The exhibit will be up through the 26th of April!

Come to the opening reception on February 9th at 2:30pm, and remember that right after the reception is a free concert at the church of a children’s choir. You can also visit the art at other times; church is typically open from 9-3 M-F, and you can call the church office to arrange a visit during other hours. Mount Olive is located at 3045 Chicago Ave, in Minneapolis.

 

Upcoming Solo Exhibit

January 10, 2020 | Filed in:

An exhibit of my artwork is going to be at Mount Olive from February 9th through April 26th. In the show will be a variety of my papercuts, mostly featuring text from the Jewish tradition, but some also with other subjects. I’ve been working hard for the past two months making new work for this exhibit.

On February 9th at 2:30pm there will be an opening reception! I will be there to visit with you and answer questions, and I may work on a new piece before your very eyes. Right after the reception there is a free concert at the church of a children’s choir.

If you can’t make it to the reception, or just want to be able to view the art again, you can go at other times. The church is typically open from 9-3 M-F, and you can call the church office to arrange a visit during other hours.

Mount Olive is located at 3045 Chicago Ave, in Minneapolis.

I hope you to see you on February 9th!

 

Stressed about tiny little marks

February 1, 2019 | Filed in:

I’ve been struggling this week with a very practical problem in this design, which is the dageshes and kamatzes. Somehow, all of my patachs ended up in places where I could connect them, but I was left with three dageshes (two in BEYSes and one in a TOF) and one kamatz (under the final ALEF) that I could not find an elegant way to connect to anything. I was starting to despair.

Then I started to hope that maybe they weren’t even necessary. The original text is Yiddish but marked up for a Hebrew reader, with all of the Hebrew vowels (nikud?) that actually wouldn’t be there in proper Yiddish. I’d already tried to discard everything I could, but I was left with a few that one non-professional consultant thought should stay. This week I asked a professional Yiddish person about this problem, but got no answer. More despair!

Finally I did some online research and determined that the dageshes weren’t needed in the BEYSes; since they aren’t in words of Semitic origin they are pronounced “bee” even without a dagesh (ref1 & ref2). And I found that according to at least one online dictionary, the correct spelling of tefisah (prison) is with a TES and not a TOF. Even though this isn’t true to the original spelling, I’m taking artistic license and changing it because that TOF and its dagesh were driving me crazy. Now all three of my dageshes are gone!

During my research I also found a patach that had to be removed from freiheit and I learned that most of my FAYs might probably need a line above them (what’s that called?) but there’s a non-YIVO alternative that allows for a FAY without the line, so I’m taking artistic license on that one as well.

Then I turned to final kamatz. I considered bringing up the prison bars to connect to it, but I think the gap between the pile of words and the prison is important. The overall effect of his design is of the words tumbling and straining down to read the prisoner, and we’re in this moment where there’s still a gap that has to be breached. No element of the words can be touching the prison bars; they haven’t accomplished arrival yet, they’re still straining and trying to get there. So I just attached the kamtz to its ALEF. It’s not too artistically offensive. In fact, I kinda like it.

 

Dissecting and reassembling the text

January 21, 2019 | Filed in:

These last few days I’ve been getting ready to begin laying the Yiddish text into the pit, where I already placed a person and prison bars at the bottom. My original intention was to use the whole Yiddish text, but as I started working with it, I realized that it’s too long to use all of it. If I were to use the entire text, the balance and impact of the piece would be diminished, I think.

So I’ve been delving into the details of the text, debating with myself as I try, again, to focus in on the parts of the tehineh that are most relevant to the spirit of this papercut. Ultimately, I decided that I have to let go of the middle section. That’s the part which essentially says to “please elevate our luck so that we aren’t falsely accused and sit forever in prison.” That’s relevant to some of the larger issues of racism and mass incarceration – Black people are more likely to be falsely convicted and more likely to wallow in prison for longer periods of time … but for the purposes of this piece of art, I am going to only focus on imprisonment itself and releasing people from that imprisonment, which all of the text that I’m keeping is about. And keeping Joseph is essential. Maybe I can use some of the left-behind text in a future piece.

So once I have the text chosen, I get it into a text layer in Photoshop at approximately the font size I want. Then I rasterize that text layer, turning it into pixels. Then I cut each individual letter out into its own layer, grouping letter-layers together into words. I’ve included a picture of part of my layer organization (click to enlarge). Then I place individual letters into the design, making sure that no letter or letter-part (I’m looking at you, yuds and hays!) or vowel is floating, unattached. Yiddish presents more of a challenge here than Hebrew, because I have to worry about the occasional dagesh (dot that floats inside a letter) and the vowels under alephs, which aren’t present in Hebrew.

As I’m putting letters into place, I have to constantly ask myself: Is everything kind of in order? Is it theoretically legible? Are there some interesting but still readable shapes being created by both the positive and negative space? I’m also making larger those words that I am more interested in; for example “imprisoned” is larger than “and you should.”

And I want to add that I am not fluent in Yiddish, so I’m leaning on some supportive sources to check that I’m understanding the text correctly.

While I was working on this today, I was listening to the most recent episodes of the podcast “16 Shots,” about the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

 

Why this Yiddish text?

January 17, 2019 | Filed in:

I’m continuing to feel good about my idea of the pit with Jacob and prison bars; I am moving forward with that as my design concept. Here’s my little sketch.

So, now I’m delving into the text. There are traditional Hebrew texts I could use; for example, there’s a line that’s part of the daily morning blessing that translates to “Blessed is the One who frees the captive/imprisoned”. But even though I’ve never done a papercut with Yiddish before, somehow Yiddish feels very appropriate to this papercut. This Yiddish text is written in a language that many people spoke, it was, at the time, a living language of real people, many of whom were not rich and were not exalted and were looked down upon and oppressed by the people around them who were not like them (in Europe, in New York). The origins of this particular text intrigue me. It’s from a book of personal prayers printed in New York in 1916, just a few years after the unjust police action against a mostly Jewish community, in that same city, that Rothbaum talks about in his Ferguson/Fargesn d’var torah.

Today, so many American Jews are white and because we live in such a segregated society, our lives rarely overlap in any meaningful way with people who are targeted by the racist justice system, people most likely to be wrongfully imprisoned. This text, both because of the language it’s written in and the time it comes from, connects our very recent history with the current realities of many Americans today.

 

A focus on the pit of betrayal and imprisonment

January 7, 2019 | Filed in:

The triptych idea is not coming together in a way that feels right at this moment. I’m trying to take a step back from all of the detail, and think more broadly.

One of the things I appreciate about papercutting as an art form, at least in the way I tend to practice it, is that it limits my options. I don’t use lots of color – I’m limited to two colors most of the time. I am forced to create the designs in a way that links every piece of paper with every other piece of paper – I don’t use glue and I don’t allow my pieces to separate from each other. I think that my art benefits from these restrictions, and in some ways it reminds me to focus and distill.

I’ve suddenly come up with a new design idea, very different from all of the ideas I’ve been considering thus far. The original text I was considering, the Yiddish text from the shas tehineh, specifically reminds g!d and us to free captives and people who are imprisoned, and it makes the connection to Joseph and his imprisonments. He was thrown into a pit by his brothers, just like we throw Black men into prison, though they are our brothers. The pit and the jail are the same thing, a dark and unfair place of human and familial betrayal. I want to bring the text back as a larger feature than I’ve been thinking in other designs, not as a side-note. And I want to call attention to this parallel between “us” and “them,” Joseph our ancestor and the Black people of today who we are imprisoning unjustly.

This design idea involved a deep pit, a man, prison bars, and the Yiddish text. I’m working on sketches to see how this can work. And I have to study the Yiddish in more detail; it’s long and I have to extract the right part of the text (right words, right focus, right length).

If you want to see the text, use the online viewer on the Yiddish Book Center website to read Shas tehine rav peninim: mit fiele perushim un mesholim in Ivri Taytsh, and look for book page 181.