About the Art and Artists

Beth Krensky – Hamsa 2007

Hamsa 2007 by Beth Krensky

Beth Krensky is an assistant professor of art education and the Area Head of Art Teaching at the University of Utah. She is an artist, activist and educator. She says about Hamsa, the piece the Museum acquired for its permanent collection: “The mystical traditions from Judaism and other faiths inform my artistic practice. In particular, the idea of tikkun olam—the directive to heal or repair the world—is incorporated into much of my work. Many of my sculptural pieces draw inspiration from centuries-old spiritual and ritual practice. Much of my work incorporates copper, which has been used in religious ceremonies for millennia, and is considered a medium between the spirit and physical worlds. Hamsa is about cultural connections, since the Jewish Hamsa is similar in form and purpose to the Islamic Hand of Fatima. It also signifies the physical act of doing the work of tikkun olam and gathering sparks.”

Deborah Howard – Child Survivors of the Holocaust Portraits

Portrait by Deborah Howard

Deborah Howard grew up in and around the Chicago area. She currently heads the painting program at the University of Denver. Recently, several of her Holocaust portraits were accepted into the permanent collection of the new Holocaust art museum at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. One section of 4,000 Year Road Trip: Gathering Sparks centers on the Holocaust and features 14 of Howard’s portraits.

“As an artist I feel the medium of drawing is ideal. It can be very intimate and can capture the intangible qualities of an individual. A drawing, with all its quirky lines, marks and smudges, is a document not only of the subject, but of the artist as well. The artist becomes a witness, and as the number of survivors dwindles artists can take an important role in the documentation of the Jewish Holocaust.

My goal in this project is to create portraits of people at this moment in time. I am not interested in making them look like victims or heroes. I am interested in capturing their humanity and in depicting very real people who have lived extraordinary lives and also very ordinary lives.”

Temple Talismans by Yona Verwer

Yona Verwer – Temple Talisman

Dutch-born Yona Verwer received her master’s in fine arts from the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague. Her recent paintings and photographs feature mystical imagery as well as amulet shaped objects and amulet portraits. Her “Kabbala of Bling” series commented on the appropriation of Kabbalah by pop icons. Her “City Charms” amulet photographs invoke protection from acts of destruction on buildings, particularly terror-watch-list targets.

Verwer continues this theme in Temple Talismans, apotropaic images that aim to protect synagogues against attacks and to bring good luck. These talismanic prints were made for specific buildings in New York and New Haven, CT. She is the president and co-founder of the Jewish Art Salon in New York.

Siona Benjamin – Finding Home # 89, Vashti and Finding Home #99, Lilith in Pardes

Lilith in Pardes by Siona Benjamin

Siona Benjamin is a painter originally from Bombay, now living in the US. Her work reflects her background of being raised as a Jew in a predominantly Hindu and Muslim India. In her paintings she combines the imagery of her past with the role she plays in America today, making a mosaic inspired by both Indian miniature paintings and Jewish and Christian illuminated manuscripts. She holds two master’s of fine arts, one in painting and the other in theater set design. She exhibits in the US, Europe and Asia, and is represented by Flomenhaft Gallery in New York.

Itmar Jobani – Head Study #8 and Bare Feet

Itamar Jobani has been identified as one of the most promising young artists emerging from Israel today. Since relocating to New York, he has garnered critical acclaim for numerous exhibitions and seen his recognition grow in the international art world. Jobani graduated from Beit-Berl College in Israel, with a major in fine arts. Post-graduation, he was invited to join the faculty of Beit-Berl, where he taught video art and new media. He continued his education at Tel-Aviv University with a double major in philosophy and film studies. After graduating with a bachelor of arts with honors, Jobani went on to study at Pratt Institute in New York, with a concentration in sculpture and new media. He has enjoyed numerous exhibitions both in Israel and abroad, and received much acclaim for his solo show at the Herzeliya Biennale in 2007.

On display at the Mizel Museum are Head Study #8 and Bare Feet, works that deal with the direct and inescapable connection between man and earth. Jobani’s sculptures are constructed from tens and often hundreds of layers of wood or cardboard in the technique of topographical models. Accordingly, his sculptures function not merely as human figures, but also serve as a metaphor for land-regions or territorial entities.

Yoel Benharrouche – Les Faces Cashees De Jerusalem

Israeli born Yoel Benharrouche was formally educated as an artist in France. He went on to become a distinguished professor of drawing and painting at Nice´s Academie Paganini. The allure of Israel brought him back to his homeland where he lives and works today. Inspired by the study of scriptures and the history of his surroundings, Benharrouche continues to explore a duality between his material and spiritual world.

“Spirit must meet with matter,” says Benharrouche. “They must interlace like the meshes of a net, like a canvas, a very tight weft, a medium the artist can use to paint his work. While revealing this message of life, I grow in myself a vital and essential love, nurtured on confidence, tenderness and respect. Thus I can build and weave around myself bonds of life and love. Through learning how to love and achieve completeness, through feeling that one belongs to the common bondage, one reaches the divine and blooms into man.”

Zion Ozeri – Our Global Matrix: Jewish Cultures Around the World, Presented by Fidelity Investments

Zion Ozeri is a world-renowned photographer, exploring the Jewish experience. Born in Israel to immigrants from Yemen, he grew up among people whose lives had been shaken by displacement. In his photographs, Ozeri encounters Jewish communities scattered across the world and in them he finds a sense of home, of familiar customs and shared experiences. Infused with a cross-cultural perspective and a mission to explore the diversity of Jewish life around the world, he captures the differences between these communities, as well as the many profound similarities that have endured across time and place.

Our Global Matrix: Jewish Cultures Around the World is a five-minute movie representing the photography of Ozeri, and appropriately accompanied by the music of Yair Dala, a composer, violinist, oud player, singer and peace activist who creates Middle Eastern music by interweaving the traditions of Iraqi and Jewish Arabic music with a range of influences, and Sheldon Sands, a composer, pianist, producer and educator who recognizes music’s ability to unite people of diverse backgrounds.

The viewing room features three of Ozeri’s photographs, including Circumcision Ceremony, Bukhara, Uzbekistan, 1993. Jewish boys all over the world are circumcised when they are eight days old. But Ozeri captured women in the Uzbek city of Bukhara who gathered to perform a special ceremony that is unique to their community.

“It takes place right before a circumcision,” said Ozeri. “The woman with the kettle pours water on the hands of the matriarch, who is seated. The water first washes the baby’s feet and then the matriarch’s hands, and the woman makes a brachah [blessing]. Then they take the baby to be circumcised. What I like about it is that it’s the women who are participating in this tradition—they’re not just spectators, they are participants.”

Jews have lived in Central Asia for centuries. However, thousands of Uzbek Jews have left in recent years to escape difficult economic conditions. Large communities have emerged in Jerusalem, New York, and in Denver, where Jews of Central Asian heritage retain many of their distinctive customs.

Beatriz Pestana-Osuna – Horizontes, Cuarto de Rezos, Las Memoriias de Abuela, Rufina i Martina and Diaspora

Beatriz Pestana-Osuna, a Sephardic Jew of Spanish & Portuguese Converso origin, was born in Venezuela, and immigrated to the USA in the early 1980’s. She has been living in Colorado since the early 1990’s. Born into a very artistic family on both of her parents’ sides, she became involved in the arts at the age of five. Her main area of specialty as an Intaglio Printmaker is dry point on copper, etching on zinc, and other hand-pulled printmaking processes. Beatriz’ style ranges from representational to abstract. Her subject matter is drawn from her personal heritage and experiences, also images inspired from readings, spirituality, immigration, nature, and current socio-political themes.

In 1977, Beatriz graduated with honors from the School of Fine Arts “Julio Arraga” in Venezuela, with a fine art degree in drawing, painting and fire arts. In 1985 she graduated cum laude from San Francisco State University with a dual bachelor of arts in fine arts (printmaking, drawing and painting) and communication disorders and speech science. She also completed graduate level advanced printmaking studio classes at San Francisco State University.

For more about the art of 4,000 Year Road Trip: Gathering Sparks contact Georgina Kolber, Curator, (303) 749-5019 or gkolber@mizelmuseum.org.