Silent Witnesses - Yona Verwer

Every week we feature several artists participating in our current exhibit Silent Witnesses: Synagogues Transformed, Rebuilt, or Left Behind - Artists Respond to History.
This art exhibit is organized by the Cultural Heritage Artists Project, in collaboration with the Jewish Art Salon, JWalks and the Holocaust Memorial Center. February 22 - April 14 in Metro Detroit. Exhibit info here.

Yona Verwer
A Cemetery Dodges the Wrecking Ball 

The 1967 Dodge is an homage to my parents in the Netherlands, car enthusiasts who often bought a vehicle made in the Chrysler factories of Detroit.

I produced this work influenced by Joan Roth, a photographer whose work I have admired for years. For generations Roth's family was affiliated with Congregation Shaarey Tzedek, which is now the caretaker of Beth Olem, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Michigan.  

My work is centered around this burial place, a religious site that has seen as much urban change as the community's synagogue buildings. At one time this cemetery was in a peaceful setting, but as the manufacturing plant of Dodge Chrysler expanded the cemetery became surrounded by an industrial parking lot. Eventually the Dodge plant closed, and without moving, the site is now located on the grounds of General Motors. Thanks to state laws Beth Olem Cemetery is restored and accessible to the public once a year. 

Inspired by Joan Roth's images of the demolition of Chrysler’s Dodge Main, we each created a 6-foot by 2-foot banner with the Dodge plant in the background. Weaving in and out of this grid-like structure are images I incorporated architectural details from Beth Olem. The contrast of the well-preserved burial place, recently photographed by Julian Voloj, with the old auto plant illustrates Detroit's history and its emphasis on restoration.

See Verwer's work featured on Alpha Omega Arts here.

Dutch born Yona Verwer’s recent paintings and photographs feature Kabbalah inspired imagery. She exhibits in the United States and the Netherlands, including at the Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art, Denver’s Mizel Museum, New York’s Lower East Side Conservancy, the Andy Warhol Factory, and the Bronx Museum. Her work has been featured in the NY Times, the New Yorker, the Daily News, the Jewish Press, and NY Jewish Week. She is the co-founder and president of the Jewish Art Salon in NYC, where she organized dozens of art events and exhibits, such as at the Flomenhaft Gallery, the Manhattan JCC and the Yeshiva University Museum.  She recently presented at the Jewish Museum and Limmud NY.

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