Secularization Breeds Collaboration in “Blessed Are the Artists” Exhibit at Caldwell College

October 24, 2012 9:00 pm 1 comment

Lynne Avadenka, Root Words, 2001. Color lithography, 50 1/8 x 33 3/8 in (127.3 x 84.8 cm) ea. Photo by R.H. Hensleigh.

Threatened by secularization in the wake of modernization, members of different religions are joining together to give strength and inspiration to one another, even if their practices, backgrounds, and beliefs differ. Comes to play, Blessed Are the Artists, an exhibit at Caldwell College bringing together 20 artists from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds.

Historically a Catholic college, the institution considered doing an exhibition on Christian art, when curator Yulia Tikhonova decided to make the exhibition theme broader.

Tikhonova explains that the subject of religious identity has recently become stronger, playing a role in politics where   religion is used as a political tool versus an inspirational one. She discovered that despite cultural differences, artists of various backgrounds are exploring common goals in the role of religion in our shared contemporary culture. Some common themes include the possibilities of religious visualization through contemporary art, religion and identity, critique of women in religion, art making as “religion”, religion and pop-culture.

Several works in the show deal with books or book art and are exhibited in the Caldwell College Jennings Library. The exhibition states “where once books were the most important transmitter of spiritual knowledge, today’s contemporary book artists explore this medium to address the dynamic relationship between text, history and religion. “

Siona Benjamin, Finding Home #79 “Ishq”, 2006. Gouache and 22K Gold Leaf on Paper, 20x 17’.

Common Language

Book artist Lynne Avadenka presents two works, Root Words and By a ThreadRoot Words (top left) is based on similarities between words in Hebrew and Arabic. Avadenka became inspired when she realized the word “compassion” (rachamim) was the same in both languages and teamed up with Mohamed Zakariya, one of the foremost Islamic calligraphers in the world, to produce this book.

Both artists contributed their knowledge of their respective religions and realized the importance of the book, letters, reading, and writing in Judaism and Islam. Root Words contains seven words in Hebrew and Arabic that are similar in pronunciation and share the same meaning. The artists chose to illuminate seven words as the number seven is an auspicious number in both cultures.

The pages contain quotes from Islamic and Jewish sources about letters, writing, reading, with drawings by Avadenka combining Hebrew and Arabic letterforms.

Avadenka relates, “the title ‘Root Words’ comes from the knowledge that both Hebrew and Arabic words are formed from a three letter root system, and that language is the root of the problem and the solution.”

Avadenka’s other work, By A Thread, continues the artist’s exploration of the commonalities in Judaism and Islam by looking at the stories of Queen Esther and Scheherazade. Research shows there are striking similarities between the two heroines: both were part of harem culture, were the second wives of insomniac kings, and both stories revolve around banquets and intrigue. Most importantly, both women used language, the only power they had at their disposal, to speak up and save lives.

The exhibition shows such a variety of approaches to religion in art and does not make one stance or another, allowing for each approach to be right. This idea further compliments the struggle for the religious in the secularized melting pot of the United States.

Tikhonova’s curatorial direction shows how religious themes come with a lot of baggage. “Religion never leans anyone to indifference. All reflect one way or another. Artists are naturally opinionated” says the curator. The show is not a critique of religion, rather it is an exploration of how contemporary life, a life of freedom and abundance, tries to embrace rules. We shall see if this trend of collaboration continues in the near future.

Blessed Are the Artists runs from October 11 to November 10th, 2012. Caldwell College is located at 120 Bloomfield Ave., Caldwell, N.J. 07006.

1 Comment

  • Brachot to ALL who are willing to find commonalities of all cultures, thus promoting PEACEFUL CO-EXISTANCE AND WORLD PEACE.

    When tested by the blood bank I was informed that I am a universal blood donor. To use my blood to save a live is to SAVE A LIFE!

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Music US & Canada Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Pop superstar Lady Gaga on Thursday accepted an award from Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of her Born This Way Foundation, which strives to combat bullying among young people. “Your philosophies are so in line with ours,” she said of the ADL upon accepting the Making a Difference Award in a videotaped message, which was shown at a ceremony in New York City. “We want to help young people know that their feelings and who they are on [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    JNS.org – Eighty years young, Leonard Cohen fits many descriptions—singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, monk. From his Jewish upbringing in Canada to the present day, Cohen has always explored his spiritual side. This month, the singer-songwriter released the CD (May 12) and iTunes (on May 8 of this year) formats of his latest album, Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, which features live recordings from his world tours in 2012 and 2013. Last year, Cohen’s Popular Problems was voted by Rolling Stone [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    JNS.org – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) head Sepp Blatter said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that contrary to Palestinian complaints, Israel has not violated any FIFA statutes and should not be suspended from international soccer’s governing body. “We should not come to one federation saying we will exclude them,” said Blatter, the Jerusalem Post reported. “If the national association is fulfilling its obligations then there is no need to intervene,” he said. “I’m on a [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Middle East Sports Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) said on Tuesday it was “appalled” by a Palestinian Football Association initiative to suspend Israel from FIFA, calling it another “front waged in the context of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.” “We are appalled at the temerity of the Palestinan Football Association (PFA) demand that FIFA suspend Israel at your forthcoming Congress in Zurich,” wrote the group’s international relations director, Dr. Shimon Samuels, in a letter to FIFA President Joseph [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    The lead actor in Son of Saul, an Auschwitz thriller featured at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, told the UK’s The Guardian that he believes God was “holding the hand” of each Jew who died in the Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust. “I do not for one nanosecond like to pretend that God is off the hook. He could and should have stopped it at a much earlier stage,” Géza Röhrig, 48, said. ”But I would not be able to get [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys singer Howie Dorough took to Instagram on Tuesday to marvel about climbing the famed Masada fortress with his band during their visit to Israel, where they will perform this week for the first time. The group’s second day of sightseeing in the Jewish state included the Masada hike, and taking a mud bath at the Dead Sea. A picture from the band’s official Twitter page shows the five singers covered in mud. While relaxing in the Dead Sea, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews US & Canada ‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army

    ‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army

    A new book and its upcoming film adaptation tell the true story of how three former yeshiva students who habitually smoked marijuana scored a $300 million contract from the U.S. government to supply weapons for the Afghan Army, the New York Daily News reported on Sunday. Arms and the Dudes details how the Miami Beach potheads became “the most unlikely gunrunners in history,” according to the book’s author, investigative reporter Guy Lawson. The tale begins with Efraim Diveroli, nephew of [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Natalie Portman: Israel-Themed ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Not Political

    Natalie Portman: Israel-Themed ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Not Political

    JNS.org – Natalie Portman, who directs and stars in the new Hebrew-language film adaptation of author Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness, says that despite Oz’s record as a vocal left-wing critic of Israel, her film is not political. Like the book on which it is based, Portman’s film is about a young boy at the time of the founding of the state of Israel. “I think the movie is very much about this very particular, specific family story. Of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.