Emran El-Badawi. Credit: J. Patric Schneider, freelance, Houston Chronicle
As a University of Chicago doctoral candidate, Emran El-Badawi noticed a great divide between quranic scholarship produced in the United States and Europe and research created in the Islamic world. Western scholars often weren’t fluent in Arabic, Farsi and Urdu, and the same was true for counterparts in the Islamic world with German, French and English.
“The main problem with quranic studies today is that scholars don’t necessarily talk to one another,” said El-Badawi, the director of the University of Houston’s Arabic program.
Read more in the Houston Chronicle.
Posted by Menachem Wecker on March 7, 2014
Canadian Art magazine homepage
“Jewish, secular, American, Canadian, female, child of English professors—these facts provided a frame with blurry edges for my being,” said artist Jessica Stockholder in her recent keynote address at the 2014 College Art Association Conference in Chicago. “Any sense of knowing I might have about who I am needed to be flexible.”
As a sculptor and installation artist who grew up in Vancouver, earned a BFA from the University of Victoria, and is now chair of the University of Chicago’s department of visual arts, Stockholder reflected on various identities during her February 12 lecture. Her talk, titled “Knowing, making stuff, things, objects, and 4,198 words,” was as advertised: just under 4,200 words, and it touched on Stockholder’s oscillation between the art world and higher education.
Read more in Canadian Art magazine.
Posted by Menachem Wecker on March 5, 2014
Yehana Yemini’s Hanukkah lamp was created in the 1920’s/Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
At first glance, Yehia Yemini’s 1920s Hanukkah lamp, which was recently acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in its 119-object Charles and Lynn Schusterman Collection, looks pretty typical. The silver lamp, supported by four small orbs for legs, contains the correct number of candleholders and an offset well for the shamash. The decorations on the lamp’s back wall are of the type and style that one expects from Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy.
But the inscription beneath an illustration of several figures, including a high priest tidying the Temple and its overturned vessels, is unusual. Rather than quoting from the Hebrew bible, the inscription cites the apocryphal text 1 Maccabees 4:47-48 (or 48-49 in some editions): “And they purified the (Temple) courtyard and all that was in it, and they renewed all the holy vessels.” Not only do the verses not come from canonical Jewish texts, but they also don’t even refer specifically to the Temple menorah.
Read more in the Jewish Daily Forward.
Posted by Menachem Wecker on March 4, 2014
The Pietà, or the Virgin Mary mournfully cradling Christ’s dead body, is an artistic invention, which, as the Encyclopedia Britannica explains, “has no literary source.” One of the most important representations of the Pietà is Michelangelo’s late 15th-century marble sculpture at St. Peter’s Basilica. Michelangelo’s Christ lies on the Virgin’s lap, as limp as the folds in her flowing dress; Mary is not only a particular mother grieving for her dead son, but all mothers who have ever grieved for a child.
Jennifer Marman & Daniel Borins, ‘piETa’ (2007). 183 x 244 x 213 cm, loan from Judy Schulich & David Stein, Art Gallery of Ontario.
Sacred cows, however, are particularly prone to reappropriation and, on occasion, mockery. Denver-based artist Cedric Chambers’ “The Prophets” shows Darth Vader holding the dead Christ over a pile of skeletons in front of the toppled Twin Towers, some parts of which resemble crosses. (It seems that a Huffington Post write-up at one point questioned whether it was “the most offensive painting ever,” although that grandiose claim no longer appears.)
Poland-based Kordian Lewandowski’s “Game Over” maps out the Pietà over game characters, specifically Princess Peach holding a dead Mario. Online searches for Pietà reveal that the pose hasn’t gone mainstream like “Tebowing” or “planking,” but it is often interpreted unexpectedly, such as in this (NSFW) Annina Roescheisen work and this Nicholas de Lacy-Brown painting.
Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins’ “piETa,” which is on view through April at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, also playfully interacts with the solemn art historical conventions surrounding the Pietà. The work casts ET (of the 1982 film) as the Madonna, and Yoda, of Star Wars, is the stand-in for Jesus.
Read more about the “piETa” on the Forward blog Arty Semite.
Posted by Menachem Wecker on February 25, 2014
Vilna Synagogue, Boston. Photo: Menachem Wecker
“I find that many of my Boston friends — of whatever religion — have not heard of Vilna, or even if they have, have never visited,” says Samuel Gruber, a cultural heritage consultant, scholar and frequent blogger on Jewish art and architecture. “Nationally, the Vilna Shul has never gotten the type of media exposure of Touro Synagogue in Newport, Eldridge Street Synagogue in New York, or even of Wright’s Beth Sholom in Elkins Park, Pa.”
(Having grown up in Boston, I’m ashamed to admit I wasn’t familiar with the Vilna Shul either until Gruber and Barnet Kessel, the synagogue’s executive director, gave me a tour.)
Read more of the Jewish Daily Forward article.
Posted by Menachem Wecker on February 10, 2014
Man drawing sculptures at Art Institute of Chicago. Photo by Menachem Wecker
Even on the opening day of the Baltimore-based Walters Art Museum’s 1988 exhibit of Greek icons and frescoes, museum staff quickly realized that they had a kissing problem on their hands.
When visitors reached the end of the show, which culminated in a masterpiece from the museum’s permanent collection, many viewers kissed the Plexiglass over the work — the 1585-1590 painting “Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata” by Domenikos Theotokopoulos (“El Greco”).
“Every day, after the exhibition closed, somebody would have to go through with Windex and get the kissing off this Plexiglass,” said Gary Vikan, who recently retired as the director of the Walters and helped curate the exhibit “Holy Image, Holy Space: Icons and Frescoes from Greece.”
“And not just lipstick; men did it too,” he said.
Speaking on a panel titled “Sacred Objects in Secular Museums” on Nov. 24 at the American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature 2013 Annual Conference in Baltimore, Vikan underscored how significant it was that Orthodox Christian viewers were kissing that particular painting… Read more in Deseret News.
Posted by Menachem Wecker on January 3, 2014
My Jewish Daily Forward article “How Children’s Books Discovered Their Jewish Roots” has made today’s Religion News Service Monday news roundup: “Trayvon nativity * Snake jury * Obama’s faith: Monday’s religion news roundup.”
Curious George. Flickr/Loren Javier
Here’s the relevant passage in Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s article:
Features worth reading: One former megachurch in Indianapolis is borrowing some of the language of the Slow Food movement to resist the “McDonald’s-ization of the church.” Many know the Salvation Army’s red kettles and bell ringers at Christmastime, but fewer people know that it is a church. Peggy Fletcher Stack explains. And one man credits Buddhist meditation with saving his life. And 2013 has afforded Jewish children’s literature the big break it has needed for some, argues Menachem Wecker.
Posted by Menachem Wecker on December 30, 2013
Forg and Toad/Wikipedia
In many ways, 2013 has afforded Jewish children’s literature the big break it has needed for some time — perhaps akin to the widespread attention that Jewish comic books and graphic novels have received for years, with their Jewish mice and superhuman men punching out Hitler.
At the Chicago Humanities Festival in November, Paul Reitter, a professor of German at Ohio State, addressed the Zionist identity that informed Felix Salten’s book, “Bambi.” San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum is showing, through March 23, “Frog and Toad and the World of Arnold Lobel.” And the Holocaust Museum Houston is exhibiting, through June 15, works by the authors of “Curious George” in the traveling show, “The Wartime Escape: Margret and H.A. Rey’s Journey from France.”
Read more in the Jewish Daily Forward.
Posted by Menachem Wecker on December 28, 2013