Artistic dialog: Jewish Cultural Center exhibit celebrates power of written word

Artistic dialog: Jewish Cultural Center exhibit celebrates power of written word

November 16th, 2014 by Casey Phillips in Life Entertainment

An example of the mixed-media narrative art by Chattanoogan Judith Paul.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Mugs by Erik Haagensen

Mugs by Erik Haagensen

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

The Artists

• Michael Schulson is a writer and graduate of Baylor School and Yale University now living in Durham, N.C.

• Judith Paul is a mixed-media narrative artist who lives in Chattanooga

• Erik Haagensen is a ceramic artist who lives near Asheville, N.C.

• The Voices & Visions program is an offshoot of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, a Massachusetts-based collaborative group of Jewish artists whose graphic designs are designed to "inspire conversation, instill pride, and spark creativity," according to its website.

If you go

* What: "Print: An Exhibit of Writings, Reliefs, Ceramics and Graphic Design."

* Where: Jewish Cultural Center, 5461 N. Terrace Road, through Dec. 12.

* Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday.

* Admission: Free.

* Phone: 493-0270 (ext. 13 for group or docent-led tours)

* Website: www.jewishchattanooga.com.

The age-old wisdom is that the pen is mightier than the sword. Ann Treadwell is banking on it being a better conversationalist, too.

Whether via an artfully mangled book, a ceramic mug emblazoned with political witticism or a long-form article, Treadwell says she hopes the power of the written word inspires a dialog among viewers of "Print," an ongoing multimedia exhibition she curated at the Jewish Cultural Center.

"One of the things the Jewish Federation [the mother organization of the Cultural Center] does is create exhibits that invite people to have conversations," Treadwell says. "I would hope that people would find a specific piece that they could relate to and have a conversation about or to have a conversation about the importance of words in our society."

"Print" opened at the Cultural Center on Oct. 30 and will continue through Dec. 12.

Spread throughout the center, whose shape reflects that of the Star of David, viewers will see 54 pieces, including published articles by Michael Schulman, ceramic work by Erik Haagensen, mixed media sculptures by Judith Paul and 12 posters by Jewish graphic design group Voices & Visions.

Paul's works consist of books that have been cut, hammered through and otherwise physically manipulated before being artfully displayed in plastic-glass cases similar to those used in museums to exhibit priceless artifacts. Such presentation is deliberately designed, she says, to reflect the valuable and endangered role physical paper and words hold in a society that increasingly cozies up with digital e-readers.

"The aim of my pieces is to glorify books because obviously they're on the way out with all the technology that we have," she says. "[Words] are absolutely powerful. Has anyone given you a compliment or told you they hate you? Words are very important. It's what we're all about."

Despite the disparate media, Treadwell says each wall of the exhibition hall features works that have been intentionally arranged in vignettes that suggest thematic connections.

"It is really important to me, whether the exhibit is all-visual or, in the context of this exhibit, to place things close to each other so they, in fact, can have a conversation with each other," she says.

"On one of the walls in the exhibit, there are two platters ... that have text on them relating to political food images. ... Then there is an article written by Michael Schulson that is about grocery stores and a graphic design poster of a huge pear that has a quote in it about nourishing the mind. Those pieces, when put together, have their own conversation."

Some of the works, such as the ceramics and mixed media pieces, suggest these connections more readily. Schulman's articles, however, are much longer and difficult to digest on-site, Treadwell says. To extend the dialog beyond the scope of the visit, she has included printed copies of the articles for visitors to take with them.

"The object here is for people to look at things, think about things and create dialogs about what they're seeing," she says.

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.


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