Contemporary Artists Exploring Women in Tanach and Talmud

The Association of Jewish Studies will hold its 46th Annual Conference in Baltimore December 14-16, 2014.  Sunday December 14, 11:15am to 12:45pm, a Roundtable Discussion titled Contemporary Artists Exploring Women in Tanach and Talmud will take place at the Hilton Baltimore.

The discussants are all Jewish Art Salon members: Richard McBee, Ruth Weisberg, Matthew Baigell, Ben Schachter. The moderator is Vivian Mann, Director of the Jewish Theological Seminary's Master's Program in Jewish Art and Visual Culture

The role of women protagonists in Tanach and Talmudic narratives is dynamic, generative and frequently overlooked in traditional Biblical studies. In many instances women instigate and propel crucial narratives. The illustrious list unfolds from Eve, Lilith, Sarah and Hagar, Mrs. Potiphar, Asnath, Serach, Batya, the Daughters of Zelophehad, Rahab, Devorah, Jael: all of these women and dozens more are uniquely crucial to the biblical narrative as women. Many more are lurking in the Talmud and commentaries. Contemporary Jewish artists are beginning to explore many of these women’s narratives.

The discussants will explore how contemporary Jewish artists address this rich trove of subjects. 

Richard McBee will discuss his own work tracing ‘female narrative engines’ as well as the art of Janet Shafner whose work explores the intimate relationship between biblical narrative and Talmudic commentary. Siona Benjamin and Eden Morris’ work on violence and revenge in Lilith, Sarah and Esther narratives will be explored. 

Matthew Baigell will review how Jewish feminist artists challenged biblical patriarchy and examined contemporary morality with female biblical figures, as well as the work of David Wander, locating them in late 20th century visual culture. Jacqueline Nicholls interrogates 10 Talmudic women as well as the Talmud’s misogynist aphorisms. The curatorial view from Israel will be examined with Dvora Liss (Ein Harod Museum) and her recent exhibition of two women visually engaging the Talmud in “Tosafot” and the work of Andi Arnovitz. 

Ben Schachter will explore how artists, male and female alike, engage feminism in order to examine the relationship between law and cultural norms. At times the intention is clear, to advocate for change. At other times the work presents an open ended examination of gender relations or a celebration of Jewish uniqueness. Biblical and Talmudic motifs will include the Daughters of Zelophehad, the eruv and tzniut.

Vivian Mann will direct the roundtable dialogue to examine the specific roles women play in these Jewish texts; how those roles have changed and what aspects of the feminine are still unexplored in Jewish narrative.


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