As it happens I'll be giving five talks and lectures on Jewish topics in Syracuse and Dewitt this month hand next. Four are deal specifically with Jewish art and architecture and are free and open to the public.
In addition, this Wednesday (February 5th), I'll be speaking about Jews and the Civil War at Syracuse Stage in conjunction with the current production of The Whipping Man, a play by Matthew Lopez, before the 2 pm matinee performance.
Here is information about talks at congregation Beth Sholom-Cheva Shas (February 16) and Temple Adath Yeshuran (March 9, 23, 30)
Art and ethnography came together in the first part of the 20th century as Jewish photographers began to document traditional Jewish life in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Some of the intent was preserve memories of a culture that was clearly changing; another part was already nostalgia – something Jewish painters had already pioneered. From America, Jewish charities hired photographers to document the needy conditions of Jews in order to help promote aid programs and stimulate private contributions. But Jewish artists – including many women – embraced photographer for its experimental and expressive qualities, too, and Jewish photographers joined the new artistic avante-garde of Expressionism, Constructivism and Dada, and also the new field of photo-journalism. In the post-World War II period, American Jewish photographers turned their camera on themselves and their more immediate environment. The New York School of photographers blended autobiography, existentialism and a gritty realism to present a more varied look at American than found in advertising and the mainstream media.
In the past three decades Jewish art – and Jewish artists as become self-aware. New museums and galleries, and lectures like these have once again stirred debate about what is “Jewish art?” Post-war Jewish artists grew up in a world where Judaism was often defined by the Holocaust and Israel. But many artists raised on pop art, comic books and TV, and having also witnessed the civil rights movement, ethnic politics, feminism and other group empowerment programs, have pushed traditional definitions of Jewish art to include new media and a whole new range of subject matter. Importantly, they have been quick to identify their work as Jewish or even “too Jewish” and have used irony and often irreverent humor to address questions of religious, cultural and ethnic identity. This lecture looks are some of the many and often competing trends and some of the most accomplished and sometimes provocative artists.