Two art presentations:
Billha Zussman (Amsterdam) presents “HINENI & EINENI: Sieving and being sieved”.
Zussman’s bible notebook, a patchwork of household kitchen symbols and objects, explores “Why aren’t Billha and Zilpah counted as Jewish matriarchs?”
Yehudis Barmatz-Harris, Elinora Schwartz, and Avital Naor Wexler (Israel) present “Bright Moon – Dark Coffee: Exhibition Tour at Beita, Jerusalem”.
The hour of darkness, black as coffee, is the time of legends and tales before sleep, reflections and dreams (Barmatz-Harris), and attending to the body, its desires, memories, and its pain (Schwartz). Curated by Avital Naor Wexler.
July 5, 1:00-2:00pm (EDT) / 20:00-21:00 Israel time, 10:00-11:00 PDT on Zoom
I organized this event for the Jewish Art Salon; co-sponsored by JADA Art.
Hineni & Eineni
Bilhah the “unworried” is a person mentioned in the book Genesis. She is described as Laban’s handmaid, who was given to Rachel to be her handmaid on Rachel’s marriage to Jacob. When Rachel fails to have children she gave Bilhah to Jacob “to wife” to bear him children.
Rachel and Leah are included in the Jewish Women Pantheon; their handmaidens Bilhah and Zilpah are excluded. We have six matriarchs, mothers of the 12 tribes. The erasure of Bilhah and Zilpah from our traditional consciousness is an emblem of the exclusion of marginalized women in society. They are handmaids, transparant; they are not concerned human beings; sort of a barcode of womb for hire. The status of Bilhah and Zilpah in the Bible is called in Hebrew : PILEGESH – PELEG ISHA which translates into half woman.
What strikes in this whole history is how cruel these women are to each other. When viewed through a feminist lens you could also argue that it depicts women struggling to become more valuable to a man in a position of authority, using other women’s bodies as canon fodder in the process, using the same vocabulary, the same language and toolbox used by their opressors. They are being maneuvered into this cruel breeding contest, maneuvered into their own destruction and the only way to survive this horror is to use the same vocabulary of their opressors.
Turning the tools meant to oppress you into your own weapon. Turning a dark spot into a jewel! This is what HINENI & EINENI deals with.
Zussman’s Bible notebook is a sort of fragmented landscape, a patchwork of symbols and objects from the kitchen household, a toolbox allowing ladies to handle their surroundings. Her favorite kitchen tool is the sieve, the ultimate emblem to filter history, idea’s and most important: your own language!
Each era in history uses its own sieve, invents its own vision on time. Bilhah and Zilpah are sieved out but using the tools the way they chose, brings result. Squeeze out your own voice, signals, chose each time the sieve which will serve you the best, whether it is HINENI or Eineni, both sides of the same coin, your identity. HINENI: here I am; Eineni: I’m not. I am here or I am invisible. My own choice in my own vocabulary!
Zussman is currently working on a short animation film HINENI & EINENI. It is still a work in progress. Don’t miss the background sound which is the backbone of this whole history described here.
Bright Moon – Dark Coffee
The exhibition functions as two solo exhibitions, sparking points of inspiration among them. Yehudis Barmatz-Harris and Elinora Schwartz create their art differently through their outlooks and search, however it is true for both, that their work comes alive as night falls: when all is quiet, and personal memories, or such recollections inherited from generations gone by, drift to the surface and penetrate the consciousness.
The hour of darkness, black as coffee, is the time of legends and tales before sleep, reflections and dreams (Barmatz-Harris), and attending to the body, its desires, memories, and its pain (Schwartz). During those nocturnal moments of silence, when the world appears empty and man feels alone, yet at the same time connected to a cosmic reality, the light of the moon is revealed once in a while, hinting at the promise of clear, bright hope to hold on to.
Bright Moon: Yehudis Barmatz-Harris alludes to four childhood stories, each one symbolizing a different time period and stage of life for her. In each of these stories, alongside an innocent reality, lurks a threatening shadow and symbolic figure: the moon, an old man, and a boat, whose purpose is to shed light and ward off fear. The stories offer a glimpse into relationships with various adults, especially the mother and father, who carry the weight of painful family memories passed down through the generations until finding their voice and place in Barmatz-Harris’s art.
The four stories portray the transition from girl, to young woman, to adult. Some of them appear flawed in the original story, depicted only from the adult’s point of view. However, they all undergo a transformation in wisdom and refinement, and become a story representing the complex present. The perspective of the therapeutic process is present in the artwork, and gradually leads the viewer to new revelations. Goodnight Moon is a tale for toddlers, which focuses on gradually bidding goodnight to the various objects in the bedroom: the dollhouse, comb, lamp, rocking chair, clock, red balloon, the burning fireplace, and more. Barmatz-Harris creates an installation that examines the bedroom in the story, portraying it through contrasts of memory and forgetfulness, life and death, light and darkness, and promise and disappointment.
Israeli-born Billha Zussman studied graphic art in Amsterdam where she still lives and works. Her work has been exhibited in the 2017 Jerusalem Biennale. She is the initiator and co-curator of the exhibition Spinoza: Marrano of Reason in Amsterdam. She works at the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam at the education department.
Yehudis Barmatz-Harris (b. Boston 1985) lives in Southeast Israel and works in new-media, assemblage, and installation. She holds a BFA from the Pratt Institute, New York, and a MART from Leslie College, Israel. As a Hasidic Jew, Yehudis is inspired by mysticism in artists such as Hilma of Klimt, while her methods are born out of American ecofeminist, process art movements. Her work focuses on the nexus of individual and community and embraces an identity as essential to artistic expression. Yehudis has exhibited in Israel, the United States and in Europe.
Elinora Schwartz (b. 1960, Ramat Hasharon), a graduate of The Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, exchanged her life as a secular dancer and actress from Ramat Hasharon, for living in a Yiddish-speaking, Haredi community in Jerusalem. Over recent years, she has returned to working as a clandestine artist. She joined the Studio of Her Own, and recently graduated from Musrara, where she was a student in the photography department.
Avital Naor Wexler is Curator and Arts Administrator at Beita Gallery, Jerusalem. She holds a Masters in Art Theory from Bezalel Academy, and a Bachelors in Art History from Hebrew University.