By Pauline Theeuws
A “feast for both the mind and the eye” was presented to students during a talk by artists at Rider’s Art Gallery on Nov. 12, highlighting the current exhibition, “Biblical Inspiration in a Secular Age.”
The exhibit, curated by Judith Brodsky, brought together five artists, Helène Aylon, Siona Benjamin, Hanan Harchol, Marc Malberg and Archie Rand, who offered different interpretations of the Old Testament.
During the talk, Rider students and the public were able to gather detailed interpretations from the artists, as well as have the chance to interact with each piece of art in the presence of its creator.
“This exhibition is a feast for both the mind and the eye,” said gallery director Harry Naar.
“It demonstrates the power of the visual arts and how the visual arts can inform, question and educate, and crosses a variety of disciplines from philosophy to literature and history.”
Although the five artists were inspired by the same theme, their works and techniques are vastly differ-ent, and each artist found a personal and specific way to share his or her message.
Benjamin, a Jewish Indian who emigrated to the United States and went to Hindi and Catholic schools, found inspiration through her multicultural background and transformed her sense of non-belonging into a feminist narrative that portrays women inspired by the Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and American cultures.
“I spent so many years wondering what I was going to paint: Jewish themes of my ancestors or Buddhist ideas from my childhood? Where was home?” said Benjamin. “I think the estranged characters in the Bible felt just as confused as I was, because I belong nowhere.”
While Benjamin uses details to present the women in her paintings, Harchol uses video animations inspired by his father to tell stories that have profound meaning to which anyone can relate.
Harchol found a way to subconsciously reach out to people on critical subjects and “touch their soul” through the use of cartoons and humor in his animations, three out of nine of which are being screened at the Art Gallery.
Aylon’s wall refers to the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, and it is not only striking visually, but also physically. Raised Jewish Orthodox, Aylon married a rabbi, whose death prompted her to reject text from the Old Testament, as well as to resign from Orthodox life traditions.
The wall, which is built inside the gallery, is covered with the five books of Moses in both Hebrew and English, and all pages are then covered in parchment papers giving the wall an authentic look.
But Aylon’s imposing piece brings her biblical interpretation one step further by highlighting specific words and phrases in pink that challenge certain attributions made to God.
Malberg, an orthopedic surgeon by profession, painted scenes from the Old Testament and fittingly created a “body of work” that fascinatingly twists limbs.
When Malberg realized that most of the paintings that absorbed him were principally from the New Testament, he decided to get inspiraton from the Old Testament to create a collection that he hoped would have as much of an impact as the European paintings he admired.
Rand found a way to fulfill his passion for words and art in the series of 60 paintings representing sub-jects from the Old Testament, which all are accompanied by personal comments giving each piece a “comic book style.”
Principally inspired by his father, who was an artist on many levels, Rand made sure to create meaningful paintings that bring his interest in the Talmud and the Torah to another, more profound, level.
“They are analyzing the Bible from 21st-century perspectives and questioning its assumptions,” Brodsky said. “The contemporary art world dismisses ‘religious’ art as not relevant to modern times.”
This exposition brings together many interests and fields of study such as history, philosophy and art history, which is why Naar finds it so fascinating and educational for Rider students and the public.
“This exhibition highlights the important role that the visual arts play at Rider, and the Art Gallery in particular, in expanding students’ intellectual and cultural development through not only critical think-ing, but also the pure pleasure of engaging with the aesthetic aspects of what we see,” said Naar.
Printed in the 11/18/15 edition.