The Jewish Waltz with Planet Earth - Exhibit at Governor's Island

This Jewish Environmental Land Art Exhibit by Art Kibbutz takes place the first 2 weeks of August 2014.

Exhibition opening: Sunday, August 3 at 3pm.

Governor’s Island, NY. Colonel’s Row - Building 407-A.

Opening words: Nigel Savage, Hazon; Curator Yona Verwer, Art Kibbutz.

Exhibition Hours: August 1 - 15, 2014, 12 - 5 pm daily.

Image: Eden Forest © 2013-2014 Cynthia Beth Rubin

Art Kibbutz’s select group of artists give collaborative and creative Jewish responses to food security, farming, and sustainable development. They spent a month creating works inspired by nature and our rich heritage. 

The exhibition also shows how this revolutionary, unprecedented project, was a living model of a thriving, inspired, sustainable Jewish artistic community, grounded in social responsibility and the Jewish heritage. 
Participating artists: Asherah Cinnamon, Nikki Green (Australia), Carol Phillips, Emmett Leader, Cynthia Beth Rubin, Elyssa Wortzman, Deborah Margo and Devora Newmark (Canada), Paul Solomon. Artist residency by Leah Caroline.
Curator: Yona Verwer. (Bold names are Jewish Art Salon members).

The exhibit features works that were created at a month-long pilot residency in May 2013 at Eden Village, where 30 international participants from 8 countries, all age groups and religious backgrounds, came together with the power to shape an innovative new program, the only one of its kind to explore creative art, Jewish teachings and tradition and environmental awareness. 

Cynthia Beth Rubin introduces an inter-active high-tech element to the nature aspect. Her work invites the viewer to use a smart phone, tablet, or ipad to view the Eden Waters series.

One scans the QR Code and downloads Aurasma. Point the camera of your phone/ipad over the surface of her Eden Forest; when the swirl appears a magic image is loading. You might find Swimming Freshwater Plankton, A Forest, Running Water, or Music by Bob Gluck.

QR code for the Aurasma / Augmented Reality:

The Eden Waters series includes digitally composited moving imagery derived from observations of microscopic life in fresh water samples taken from a muddy stream in the Hudson Valley during the Art Kibbutz residency. In the still images, Augmented Reality triggers, using Aurasma, (channel: Eden Waters Mud) reveal the source imagery, the environment, and segments of the video featuring music by composer Bob Gluck. All imagery was found, digitized, and modified by the artist. 

To preview the Augmented Reality triggers, using Aurasma, (channel: Eden Waters Mud) point your smart phone or tablet at the QR code, install Aurasma when prompted, and then point to Eden Forest.

Left: Cynthia Beth Rubin using the iPad to access the sounds and images of Augmented Reality in her Eden Forest.

Nikki Green and Asherah Cinnamon built a 12 ft sculpture based on the Hebrew letter shin; they used locally resourced wood branches to connect a group of people to the land on which they lived together during that period of time. At sunset it was launched and set afloat on the lake. 
Nikki Green and Asherah Cinnamon
Photo courtesy of Paul Solomon

Carol Philips created white Jewish prayer flags; they serve as a gateway between two spaces at Camp Eden: the Makom Kodesh, where community prayer is held, and a forest path.

Based on a Talmudic midrash explaining manna as the food that “draws out the heart”, Elyssa Wortzman journeyed into the forest to forage for manna, spiritual sustenance that derives from the environment.  Using the map of Eden Village as the underlying image, Wortzman created a collection of mixed media works that document this process. 

Emmett Leader’s gateway, incorporating large scale carved clay tiles with imagery and text, a quote by Rabbi Eleazar, laid claim to the importance of the visual in the human experience and also to imagery as a portal to Jewish spirituality.  

Boundaries of Eden is new work by Paul R. Solomon that captures the landscape from multiple points of view in a single exposure; a tour de force enabled by photographing with an iPhone. The title echoes the first fall from grace in the quest for knowledge, and thence power. 

Paul R. Solomon - Homage to Muybridge - Eden. 
Un-retouched photograph made with an iPhone 4

In addition 8 prints document the residency. Besides images of the Shma collaboration, it shows artists Devora Neumark and Deborah Margo. Inspired by the work of such artists as James Turrell and Sook Jin Jo and the Jewish teachings about the particular potency of prayer during Shavuot, they utilized organic parchment paper, thread and materials found in the forest, to create an installation, intentionally temporary, intended to suggest the connections between Heaven and Earth. 

Artist Residency on Governor’s Island 
While the 1st floor of the building is used as a gallery space featuring The Jewish Waltz With Planet Earth exhibition, the 2nd and 3rd floor hosts an artist residency by a curated group of emerging writers, musicians and visual artists between August 1st and August 15th

Art Kibbutz is an international Jewish artist residency, community and hub. Its mission is to foster global arts conversation and exchange among artists of exceptional talent in an inspiring and peaceful space to work, learn and seriously explore the rich heritage of Jewish experience that informs their creative process. THE JEWISH WALTZ WITH PLANET EARTH marked a significant step that Art Kibbutz undertook towards the creation of an international Jewish artist colony at a permanent location in New York.
For more residency information click here.

How to get to Governor's Island?
Governors Island, NYC… a short ferry-ride from lower Manhattan and Brooklyn! Click here for directions.

Complete schedule of public ferries and additional information here.

In 2014, there is now a $2 round-trip fare for the public ferries, except on weekends, when the first two ferries of the day are free, round-trip. 

Colonels Row is a 10 minute walk from both ferry landings on Governors Island. The houses are not wheelchair accessible. 

Ferry Schedule:
Manhattan Ferry Public Service
Monday-Friday, 10:00am-6:00pm
Saturday and Sunday, 10:00am-7:00pm
Roundtrip Cost: Adults - $2.00, Senior Citizens - $1.00, Children - ride free, No surcharge for bikes

Brooklyn Ferry Public Service
Saturday and Sunday ONLY, 11:00am-7:00pm
Roundtrip Cost: Adults - $2.00, Senior Citizens - $1.00, Children - ride free, *No surcharge for bike

About the Artists:

Nikki Green has been creating unique Jewish art, integrating her traditional values within a contemporary Australian context. Another strong influence motivating her work is the native flora and the rich colours of the rugged Australian landscape. Nikki has exhibited her work in galleries and museums and has also held numerous workshops and lectures on the art of illumination and Jewish Art. She also coordinated several environmental art projects with local schools. At Art Kibbutz Nikki finished her print series of Hebrew letters matched with native Australian plants and created a collaboration with Asherah Cinnamon. 

Asherah Cinnamon created several temporary installations utilizing readily available on-site materials. For the entire time of the retreat Asherah Cinnamon (Maine) and Nikki Green (Western Australia) were busy scouring the woodlands of the campgrounds, collecting the branches, roots and saplings which they used to construct a twelve foot shin representing the Shma:Listen, which has been moved from the studio toward the lakeside. At sunset it was launched and set afloat on the lake. Its vibrations will long remain in this valley, possibly longer than the impact it had on the community that helped launch it and witnessed its movement across the lake. 

Artist Statement - Shema: Listen
This installation is the result of a lively three week collaboration at Art Kibbutz New York between printmaker Nikki Green and sculptor Asherah Cinnamon. Based on the Hebrew letter shin, it uses locally resourced wood branches to connect a group of people to the land on which they lived together during that period of time. The lake is the visual and energy center of Eden Village. A 12 foot sculpture was constructed by the two artists and brought from a working studio down to the lake in a procession of more than 20 people (artists, along with farm, camp, and kitchen workers), singing spontaneously in unison, and launching it onto the quiet lake, where it floated overnight to the other side and was then anchored off shore for boaters to find and wonder at for months to come. 

The letter shin has many meanings and symbols associated with it. It means different things to each of us and to the viewer. It is the first letter of one of the Hebrew names of the Diety (Shekinah, the female presence). It is the first letter of the first word in the most important prayer in the Jewish religion, the Shema, which asks us to listen, hear, and remember  that we are all ONE. Shema means “hear” or “listen”. This may be the single most important and revolutionary act any human can perform to heal the earth.

Asherah Cinnamon: I have two primary goals: seek justice (tzedek) and heal the world (tikkun olam). Deeply rooted in Jewish Feminism, I am inspired by almost six thousand years of cultural philosophy and ritual. The concepts and objects used in these traditions hold meaning, memory, and ethical solutions beyond any single culture or religion. 

An immigrant child of Nazi Holocaust survivors, my “home” is in the Maine woods. I translate idea into object, installation, or performance, using wood, fiber, and recycled materials. A sukkah is a temporary dwelling place rich with meaning, yet many people in this society still do not have even a temporary home. Ritual and its objects help us remember ourselves and connect to each other across differences.

Nikki Green: In my art, I am deeply inspired by the convergence of Jewish mysticism, eastern philosophies and the natural order. Specializing in printmaking, I have recently completed a limited edition series of black and white lino-block prints, exploring the mystical significance behind each of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Through research of the healing qualities of the Australian bush flowers, I have sourced the emotive value of the letter and matched it to the corresponding native flower. In addition to the black and white format (edition 18), I have also been exploring the effects of hand dyed paper, creating two unique state artist books with colors extracted from the native Australian landscape. 

Carol Phillips created white Jewish prayer flags, based formally and conceptually on the Tibetan prayer flag model, brought to an entirely new level. 

Artist Statement: Carol Philips - Gateway to Her Dwelling
Entrance to Her Dwelling serves as a gateway between two spaces at Camp Eden: the Makom Kodesh, where community prayer is held, and a forest path. In my worldview, both of these places are sacred. The being to whose dwelling the title refers is the Shekinah, the female presence of God. She, unlike God Himself, is said to dwell on our earth, among the Jewish people. Having painted interpretations of the Shekinah’s dwelling for many years, I attended Art Kibbutz to honor her differently: by creating an installation composed of fabrics adorned with Hebrew letters. In nature, the materials and mystical qualities of the Hebrew letters are further animated by vagaries of wind and light, both attributes associated with Her presence.

North-Hampton-based ceramic artist Emmett Leader has created a n intricate gateway for the 2.5 acre organic garden that The Jewish Farm School’s intentional community is developing day by day.  This gateway, consisting of an arch that holds five beautiful friezes and 15 foot poles braided together, was dedicated on Open Studio day on May 12th. More

Artist Statement: Gateway - Emmett Leader
For me, to create a gateway, a transitional and sacred space where one has the opportunity to consider and work with some of these questions seemed like an obvious project to design and build. 
In this gateway, I created large scale carved clay tiles that have imagery and text, laying claim to the importance of the visual in the human experience and also very importantly to imagery as a portal to Jewish spirituality. The text incorporated into this gateway are the first two and last two lines from a quote of Rabbi Eleazar:                                                                                                                    

Where there is no Torah, there is no derekh eretz/decent, cultured behavior;
where there is no derekh eretz, there is no Torah. 
Where there is no wisdom, there is no fear/reverence of God; 
where there is no fear/reverence of God, there is no wisdom. 
Where there is no understanding, there is no knowledge; 
where there is no knowledge, there is no understanding. 
Where there is no kemah/meal/flour, there is no Torah*; 
where there is no Torah, there is no kemah/meal/flour.** 
Pirke Avot 3:17 

The imagery carved into the tiles speak to the uniquely human experience of growing grain and transforming it into bread. Additional imagery speak to other species coexisting and foraging for their food. Details reference Jewish practices related to our agriculturally based history as well as the shelters that we build for our own protection. 

Cynthia Beth Rubin is a new media artist whose works frequently evoke cultural memories and the imagined past by intertwining photographic elements in complex layers of representation and abstraction. Recently, Rubin's work has shifted from explorations of the vestiges human history into conversation with nature. She is interested in how nature affects our built environment, and how both the microscopic plankton and the macroscopic landscape are part of our world. At Art Kibbutz also the water inspired Cynthia is creating a video portrait based on the micro motives found in the mud of the lake. More

Artist Statement: Eden Waters: Cynthia Beth Rubin
Cynthia Beth Rubin / digital video 2013 
music by Bob Gluck raw video and sampling by C B Rubin / fresh water plankton from the Hudson Valley, New York 

The water samples used in this video are from Camp Eden Village in Putnam Valley, New York. Layered within the video, they represent the emergence of life in the early spring of our EarthThe work was begun during the Art Kibbutz artist residency. All imagery found and modified by Cynthia Beth Rubin.
and a longer version of Traces: Plankton on the Move

Elyssa Wortzman explored the role of intentionality (kavanah) in the creative process. She produced a new body of work that re-connects her to her roots as a landscape artist yet in a more contemporary, conceptual way.   

Artist Statement: Elyssa Wortzman: Foraging for Manna 
In Foraging For Manna, Wortzman explores a process at the nexus of art and spiritual direction, bringing awareness and meditation practices to the art-making process. Based on a Talmudic midrash explaining manna as the food that “draws out the heart”, Wortzman journeyed into the forest to forage for manna, spiritual sustenance that derives from the environment.  Using the map of Eden Village as the underlying image, Wortzman created a collection of mixed media works that document this process, exploring our footprint on the landscape and the landscape’s imprint on us. By bringing awareness to and cultivating trust in the environment, she could gather only what was needed (manna), developing an individual understanding of environmental sustainability.

Wortzman also used her dance background and experience with Authentic Movement in Shira Dicker's Transcendental Trope Performance, which combined spontaneous movement, Torah reading and music.

Paul Solomon, trans-disciplinary artist and university professor is  engaged with collaborative creative thought, action, and spiritual questioning.  He leads Art Kibbutz’s Programming Committee.

Boundaries of Eden: As a boy, photography was the means for me to grapple with visual complexities; to seize pieces of the world and make sense of the whole. With Boundaries of Eden I try to analyze these conundrums, and find a spontaneous way of shooting that reawakens the wonder I experienced as a child.

I seek to convey a dialogue about edges and limits; tension between ‘natural’ places and interventions of ‘man,’ and Eden in a biblical sense. The photographs also reference motion pictures. Similar to cinema, these images, stitched together sequentially in the camera, demand that the eye travel back and forth; fragments become a whole. They are intended as well to resemble traditional scrolls. These panoramas tell an inherent narrative without use of text, in contrast to the Torah scrolls I became familiar with from a young age that are purely text. The photographs also reflect a fascination with cartography and how NASA satellites transmit data. Digital artifacts, such as the black data voids, become part of the composition. 

The camera in the iPhone is relatively primitive – much like many early cameras. There is no way to set exposure time, aperture, resolution, or white balance.  Yet the accelerometer and gyroscope, the native iOS, and superb miniaturized optics in a device that fits in one’s back pocket, permits the making of images that are com

Devora Neumark (Montreal) and Deborah Margo (Ottawa) created PRESENT WITH THE WIND during the first session of Art Kibbutz May 1 to 7, 2013.  Utilizing organic parchment paper, thread and materials found in the forest, this installation, intentionally temporary is intended to suggest the connections between Heaven and Earth.  The locality informs both structure and placement: the contents all come from the surrounding floor and flora.  The placement of the ten parchment membranes hanging around the lakeside are moved by the sun and wind from dawn to dawn. Inspired by the work of James Turrell and Sook Jin Jo is intended to encourage contemplation of the connections between heaven and earth in the week before Shavuot. More

Artist Statement: Present with the Wind is a collaborative work created by artists Devora Neumark (Montreal) and Deborah Margo (Ottawa) during the first session of Art Kibbutz, May 1 to 7, 2013.  Materials: organic parchment paper, thread and found materials from the forest

In making the work, the artists considered the specificity of place and Gregory Bateson’s ideas about artistic engagement and beauty, which provide “a route into primary process whereby the buried wisdom, the otherwise inaccessible responsiveness, can be accessed and utilized” to live with greater awareness about the interdependence of all sentient beings, places and things.

Inspired by the work of such artists as James Turrell and Sook Jin Jo and the Jewish teachings about the particular potency of prayer during Shavuot, this temporary installation suggests the connection between the heavens and the earth.  The local environment informs its structure and placement: the movement of the sun from dawn to dusk, the force of the wind, the forest cycles are all reflected in the 10 parchment membranes and their contents.

Present with the Wind assumes and asserts the importance of kavanah in activating beauty’s power for healing our relationship with the earth and all of life. This co-creative project, with its deliberate emphasis on the public value of beauty, aims to engage the community of practitioners assembled for the Environmental/Eco/Land Art Residency in a deliberate contemplation.
plex and full of meaning. 

About the curator:

Dutch-born New York based Yona Verwer is on the Advisory Board of Art Kibbutz. As founder/director of the Jewish Art Salon she has curated and organized dozens of art exhibits and events at venues such as the Yeshiva University Museum, the Holocaust Memorial Center, Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art, Flomenhaft Gallery, Manhattan JCC, Tribeca Synagogue for the Arts, and the Anne Frank Center USA. She has lectured at The Jewish Museum, Columbia/Barnard Kraft Center, 14 Street Y, and the Educational Alliance.

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