The Arty Semite

Slideshow: New Moon as Meaning and Metaphor

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share
‘Rosh Hodesh Reflection’ by Elizheva Hurvich

“Rosh Hodesh: Beginning and Renewal,” a community art exhibition on view at the San Francisco Bureau of Jewish Education’s Jewish Community Library until July 31, begins and ends with an egg.

Curator Elayne Grossbard selected Amy Kassiola’s colorful mixed media “One Cycle of the Moon,” which depicts the egg of a woman’s menstrual cycle, as the starting point for viewing the 30 works by 27 local artists (25 women and two men), some of whom have participated in this annual show since the 1990s.

Kassiola’s piece, one of the strongest in the show, is followed by a variety of interpretations of the celebration of the New Month. Inspired by a variety of traditional and modern texts and commentaries provided by Grossbard, the artists took off in a myriad directions in terms of both message and media.

Some moved no further than “the recognizable symbol of the moon, sometimes more literal, sometimes more abstract,” as Grossbard noted. Others, explored topics related to the month of Nisan, the first month of the biblical year and the one during which the exhibition’s launch event will take place. Accordingly, the prophetess Miriam, water and the holiday of Passover appear in some works.

Others, like Kassiola’s, explore female fertility, cycles and rituals. Some of the most intriguing pieces depart from themes and images tied most closely and traditionally to Rosh Hodesh, and tackle ideas like the interplay between light and darkness, female and feminine self image, mother-daughter relationships, feminism and Jewish religious politics.

For the most part, it is the pieces that grapple with these themes that are also more visually compelling. Amid works of mixed media, acrylic on canvas, collage, and fabric art are ones like Laynie Tzena’s “Mirror, Mirror on the Floor, or The Evolution of the Feminine,” a large print on paper in the form of a rebus story as a sex-role autobiography, or commentary on “girl training,” as the artist puts it.

D. Jeanette Nichols’s “The Moon is in Mah Jongg” is a vivid watercolor, ink, and gold paint piece modeled on the floor of an ancient Beit Alpha synagogue floor in which she intermingles ancient astrological signs with symbols from the Chinese tile game beloved by Jewish women of leisure.

“Dark Radiance,” a collage made partially from minute pieces of newsprint in a hinged frame, was originally developed by Allen Shain for the illustrations for a book of poems by the same title written by Keith Gentzler. The poetry is about turbulent times in 1960s America, and the illustrations, when seen collectively, are a linear mandala, a diagram representing our universe and the waxing and waning of life using the moon’s cycle as a metaphor.

Elizheva Hurvich’s “Rosh Hodesh Reflection,” a mixed media work of mirror, plaster, photo, paint and wire, though not as polished as some of the other pieces in the show, draws the viewer in immediately, inviting her to see herself in the circle of life. “She takes personification to the limit with the use of the mirror,” Grossbard commented.

Barbara Cymrot’s use of glass, metal and plastic beads with copper wire and nylon thread in the intricately textured relief that is “Rosh Hodesh: New Moon Emersion” stands out in terms of media. Wendie Bernstein Lash’s “Hodesh Cycle,” a twelve-page book of hand-made paper with inclusions, and Juliette Hirt’s “Embrace (for Rebecca),” anchored by a clay hand sculpture, do as well.

The most political piece greets visitors as they enter the library. It is a quilt called “Rosh Hodesh by the Wall” by B’Yadeinu, a group composed of Diane Bernbaum, Carol Dorf, Karen Benioff Friedman, Rivka Greenberg, Shari Rifas and Claire Sherman. The women have taken a black and white screen-printing by Meara McDonald of an Associated Press close-up photo of Anat Hoffman clutching the Torah during one of the recent scuffles between The Women of the Wall and their opponents, and turned it into the center of a quilt bordered by the months of the Hebrew calendar printed in a raw, running red ink.

Finally, Aimee Golant’s “Rebirth and Rejoice” seder plate made of silver and tin alloy, with its place for the roasted egg, concludes the exhibition, bringing the theme introduced by Kassiola full circle — or more fittingly, full cycle.

View a slideshow of images from ‘Rosh Hodesh: Beginning and Renewal’:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Wendie Bernstein, Visual Art, Shari Rifas, San Francisco, Rosh Hodesh, Rivka Greenberg, Renee Ghert-Zand, Passover, Nisan, Miriam, Meara McDonald, Keith Gentzler, Laynie Tzena, Mah Jongg, Elisheva Hurvich, Exhibits, Karen Benioff Friedman, Jeanette Nichols, Elayne Grossbard, Dark Radiance, Diane Bernbaum, Claire Sherman, Carol Dorf, Barbara Cymrot, Allen Shain, Amy Kassiola, Anat Hoffman Women of the Wall, B'Yadeinu, Aimee Golant

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.