Judaica Still Life

In the Judaica Still Life series, I employ language taken from the Western Christian tradition of the Vanitas and Nature Morte paintings. I create, by closeness, intimacy with symbolic, sacred objects of my childhood.   My artistic treatment of these objects operates on two levels: on the one hand, it defamiliarizes the photographed objects, through isolating them from their environment and from the symbolic religious act associated with them. The way they are treated, through lighting and spatial manipulation, removes the symbolic, spiritual charge enveloping them, and turns them into sculptural objects.

This is, in fact, the desecration which has frightened Judaism, a religion marked by a nonaesthetic and nonmaterial approach and by the prohibition of any graven image.  

But on the other hand, the Judaica still life items demonstrate spiritual immanence and their symbolically sublime nature turns each one of them, ultimately, into a fetish, “a desired object”. Tension is created in the pictures by the lack of the religious figure. A dramatic dimension is added by placing the objects on the boundary between light and shadow, on the meeting points of light and darkness.

“CHALLE”  The image of the challa relates to the Jewish mother, who bakes braided challahs for the Shabbat. The challah is wrapped in white cloth, but the cleanliness is stained by the masculine hand holding the Kiddush cup, the father of the family, who drips on the white cloth and soils the embroidered words “In honor of the holy Shabbat”. The Shabbat ritual has actually turned into an act of copulation in the photograph, as engraved in memory.  

The image “GARTEL” undermines the religious meaning of this object, which represents the separation between the lower, bestial part of the body, and its upper, spiritual one – a wedge of modesty. My gartel, disconnected from the body of the Hasid, hangs, like a forgotten, deserted item, on the coarse, rough wall of the studio. The ritual belt, hanging down vertically on a wall of shadows along the picture, is turned into an object of domination.   The tefillin symbolize the connection with God. They are a kind of talisman, bound on the head and arm by black leather straps, guarding from following corporeal desires.  

In the picture “TEFILLIN”, a tefillin bag, made of dark velvet cloth, lies on the edge of a desk, which is adjacent to the wall. The name “Reich” (in Hebrew) is embroidered on it with a silver thread. The tefillin, bought by my father for my bar mitzvah, lie there with a seemingly intended limpness. The black leather straps emerge from the bag and descend into the dark background under the table. The triviality with which this holy article lies on the desk, almost falling down, generates a situation which borders on desecration.  

In the picture “TEFILLIN SCHEL JAD” there is disturbing beauty. It shows us a young man, with curly sidelocks, wearing a kipa and a rolled back kittel (white ceremonial robe), his arm, bound with leather tefillin straps, lying against his bare, fair back. This prayer ritual in front of a dead end wall turns into an act of undressing, expressing the desire to connect the religious ritual sanctity with the ritual of the secular sanctity.   This work represents my freedom in treating Jewish themes, as an artist who is not religiously observant.