Friday, December 30, 2011

"Paper Tefillah" Opening Reception
at Temple Israel on January 10

The image above is from Temple Israel's website; click here to see the mention in the Temple Israel Memphis Voice. I look forward to welcoming you at the opening reception on January 10, 2012. I'll be lecturing at 7:00 pm; refreshments will be served afterward.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Paper Tefillah series:

I shared this papercut with the Saturday morning minyan at Temple Ahavat Shalom this past Shabbat, and I'm pleased to share it with you here as well. (You can click the image to see it larger.)

This is my "Barchu," a papercut based on the Jewish call to worship. It's the first of the formal prayers of a contemporary Jewish service, the moment when we stop praying as as individuals and come together as a community. Our cross-talk, the silent reading of psalms, all of the business from outside vanish as the service leader calls out the first line, and the community responds with the second. This call-and-response is represented in the larger speech bubbles made up cut-up pieces of the prayer itself, showing how our private moments become part of a larger communal connection.

Here are two close-up details from the piece:

If you want to see it in person, you'll have to come to the opening at Temple Israel in Memphis on January 10.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Paper Tefillah series:
"Ahavat Olam"

Here's a very little photo of the "Ahavat Olam" papercut that will be featured in my "paper tefillah" show this January in Memphis.


You haven't heard about the show yet?

We've got our opening reception on Tuesday, January 10, 2012, at Temple Israel in Memphis. And it's going to be awesome, if I do say so myself. And I do. Sixteen papercuts representing the major prayers in contemporary American Jewish worship services.

Anyhow, in the "Ahavat Olam" prayer (which is part of the evening service) we thank God for the gift of Torah. I've represented this gift as the Etz Chaim (Tree of Life), in which the leaves are Hebrew letters and the background is made up entirely of cut-up Superman comics and pieces from prayerbooks and a chumash that had been destined for ritual burial in the genizah.

I don't have a larger image to share right now... I'll get one posted here eventually, but you should also consider coming to the show; all of the "paper tefillah" papercuts are 18" x 24" and look incredible in person.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

Teaser from the cutting table:
"One master of all the earth"

The speech bubble reads, "Soon there will be one God -- one master of all the earth!" Can you guess which prayer it represents?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Paper Tefillah series:

Here's a photo of the completed "Yotzeir" papercut -- part of the "paper tefillah" series I've created for a show this January in Memphis. It's structured around the ten sefirot (סְפִירוֹת) -- according to Kabbalah, the ten attributes of God through which the universe is sustained. These sefirot are often described in metaphor as vessels of light. Here's an excerpt of the text of this morning prayer:
Be praised, Adonai our God, for the excellence of your handiwork, and for the lights You created: may they glorify You.
Back with comics (as is the rest of the series), you can see some Firestorm, some of Frank Miller's Ronin, Peter Gillis' all-digital graphic novel Shatter, some Kirby krackle, and plenty more -- but you'll have to wait for the show catalog to see the entire listing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Thanksgiving Treat:
Batman with Eve

From Elseworlds 80 Page Giant #1, of course.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Paper Tefillah series:
"Ahavah Rabah" papercut

I've completed my "Ahavah Rabah" papercut -- part of the "paper tefillah" series I'll be showing this January in Memphis, Tennessee. (Details about the show are forthcoming.)

The "Ahavah Rabah" prayer focuses on the love God shows for us by giving us the gift of Torah and the mitzvot (commandments). The pomegranate represents the mitzvot -- it's said that it contains 613 seeds, the number of mitzvot in the Torah. The prayer mentions the four corners of the earth, which is a cue for worshippers to gather together the tzitzit (which have knots also representing the 613 mitzvot) at the four corners of their tallit and hold them together, so the four corners of this piece are backed with salvaged pieces from genizah-destined prayerbooks that reference the prayer, the mitzvot, and tzitzit.

The pomegranate is backed with comics that reflect the rich juicy color of the fruit, and there are quite a few goodies hidden in this one. It's best seen in person, but until the show you can enjoy these close-up shots. And as always, you can click the pix to see them larger.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

613 circles

My "paper tefillah" work is coming along nicely -- here's a shot from my cutting table of a piece I've been working on this weekend. There are about 613 circles in all...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Designing a new website

Pardon the dust, faithful  readers -- I'm in the midst of a site redesign that will (I hope) unite this blog and my primary site ( I promise to continue to provide photos of my work in progress as well as of completed pieces... and soon, a whole lot more!


OK, this page is coming together and my redirect is in place... and so it begins.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Art Submission Rules

Recently perused the guidelines for submitting artwork to a certain private institution -- realized that the guidelines (though fair, given the venue) eliminate most work that I would consider art, so ... I'm not going to submit. Here's an excerpt from the guidelines:
  • Content cannot be sexually explicit, harassing, or suggestive, or contain nudity
  • Content cannot promote alcohol, illegal drugs, tobacco, firearms/weapons, any activities that may appear unsafe or dangerous, or any particular political or religious agenda or message
  • Content cannot be obscene or offensive
  • Content cannot contain trademarks, logos or packaging owned by others without permission
  • Content cannot contain copyrighted materials owned by others (including photographs, sculptures, paintings and other works of art or images published on or in websites, television, movies or other media) without permission [this is the one that eliminates most of my current work -- I won't bother arguing with the venue about appropriation and fair use]
  • Content cannot contain materials embodying the names, likenesses, photographs, or other indicia identifying any person, living or dead, without permission

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Speech bubbles on the cutting table

At work on a new papercut.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Paper Tefillah series:
detail from "Mi Chamocha"

This is on my cutting board right now -- still working on it, but wanted to share a little detail with you.


Here's another one.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Sukkot from Nice Jewish Artist!

An early Sukkot present for my loyal readers: I made these posters a few years back as silly instructional guides on "how to hold and wave the four species" and "how to pick an etrog." Feel free to download, print, distribute, and share (as long as you cite I'm providing links to both 11" x 17" posters in JPEG and PDF format. Happy Sukkot!

Sukkot Poster

Etrog Poster

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Paper Tefillah series:
"MaAriv Aravim"

As promised, here's a small photo of the completed "MaAriv Aravim" papercut that I created as part of my "paper tefillah" series for a show coming up this January. Here's an excerpt of the text of this evening prayer:

...Whose word brings on the evening. Whose wisdom opens heaven’s gates, and Whose understanding changes the times and seasons, and orders the stars in their heavenly constellations... God creates day and night, rolling away light in the face of darkness, and darkness in the face of light, causing the day to pass and bringing on the night, separating day and night.

There's quite a bit of the comic characters Cloak and Dagger in this papercut, and even a bit of the prayer itself in the eye in the palm of the hamsa.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shanah Tovah!

The new year begins tonight at sundown; I hope yours is a sweet one. (You have to come up with your own snarky comments on this clip art I found online.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

On the cutting table: lots of rectangles

I haven't gotten around to photographing my recently completed "MaAriv Aravim" cut -- but I'm already working on my next piece. Here's a pic of it in progress on my table...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lexie's naming certificate

Here's the naming certificate I made as a gift for a new cousin we formally welcomed to the tribe today (my wife, Shawna, performed the ceremony). Her name is Lexie, and she's so very sweet!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Pillar of Fire" featured in
Jack Kirby Collector #55

Just a little mention, but it's always nice to be included. Issue 55 of Jack Kirby Collector, a zine that celebrates the life and career of the "King" of comics, included a detail from my "Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire" papercut in an Adam McGovern-penned article on Kirby-inspired work: "Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik's minimal mosaics of biblical wonders and pulp fable special effects." Here's what the original cut looks like in its entirety (click to see it bigger):

Click here to see the article -- which also mentions one of my fave comic-inspired rock bands, Kirby Krackle.

(And yes -- I noticed that it's incorrectly titled "Burning Bush" in the article -- but it's the pillar, all right.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Toronto Flora Ketubah

The Toronto Flora Ketubah is complete and in the hands of the happy couple that commissioned it; here's how it came together.

The design of the ketubah is based on conversations with the couple, with abstracted imagery drawn from the time they spend together “by the lake up north” in Toronto.

At the top of the ketubah is the constellation of Orion, visible in the night sky at this time of year. On the left, golden stalks of Bebb’s Sedge mingle and rise. At the bottom is a patch of Wild Ginger, its heart-shaped leaves emphasizing the love between bride and groom.

On the right side a twining Woodbine, shown with its autumn burgundy-red coloring, wraps around a traditional romantic verse from Shir haShirim (The Song of Songs): “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li — I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” The verse is particularly appropriate, as its initial letters spell out “Elul,” the month of the wedding. Within the Woodbine, at each end of the verse, can be seen the “R” and “T” from the wedding invitation, while the sinuous winding lines evoke the invitation’s script.

Above the ketubah text is an initial cap of the Hebrew letter bet, contained within vines of River Bank Grape; it stands for the first word of the ketubah, and for the couple's last name — and of course, grapes are a traditional Jewish symbol of joy and celebration.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Toronto Flora Ketubah sneak peek

Couldn't resist sharing a little detail from the ketubah I finished cutting yesterday -- now I've got to add some color and get this to the happy couple in time for the wedding! I'll post some pix once it's delivered.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wild Ginger

Here's a little abstraction of a patch of Wild Ginger -- part of the ketubah I'm working on right now. Very excited about this one, as I'm basing the papercut elements on flora from northern Toronto, to which the couple has a special attachment. Once it's delivered I'll post a photo and explanation of the whole thing.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The summer is ending, and art is happening.

Haven't updated the blog in a few weeks -- been busy getting out of summer mode and back into the saddle of art... with a few commissions to keep me busy, including a ketubah that I'll be sharing here once it's delivered to the happy couple. And I've got a few big shows in the works for 2012 -- stay tuned for details!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Teaching Papercutting at URJ Camp Newman:
The Big Shin

The final project my papercutting campers worked on this summer at Camp Newman was a group project -- a giant letter "shin" in which they each cut out various designs and pictures (taking turns, of course -- it's bad luck to have too many people cutting the same piece of paper at the same time). Many of the students incorporated elements from their mizrach and paper midrash projects -- and I"m very proud of how it turned out.

We started with a big sheet of poster paper colored with a red/yellow gradient, and cut through it -- the black you see in the image is what we cut out. (Click it to see it bigger.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Teaching Papercutting at URJ Camp Newman:
Final Mizrach Projects, 2011

This summer the campers' final mizrach projects came out great, and I'm pleased to post them here for you to enjoy.

In Judaism, mizrach (מזרח means "east") is the direction that most Jews outside of Israel face during prayer -- Jewish law prescribes that Jews face the site of the Temple in Jerusalem during prayer, and most Jews in the diaspora live west of Jerusalem, so they face eastward during prayer. Mizrach also refers to an ornamental wall plaque used to indicate the direction of prayer in Jewish homes -- and that's what the students made, after some group brainstorming about what imagery might work in such an artwork.

Many of the students made additional projects as well -- I'll be sharing those soon on this blog as well.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Teaching Papercutting
at URJ Camp Newman

Every summer I spend two weeks at URJ Camp Newman as an artisti-in-residence, teaching papercutting to high school-age campers. Their program is called Hagigah, and it's focused on expressing Judaism through the arts -- so they paint, they sculpt, they dance and sing and write... in addition to everything else you'd expect at Jewish sleepaway camp.

This year I have two groups of cutters, and they're already doing great work.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"King David":
Commission for a Magician

I'm very pleased to share with you a photo of my latest completed commission, titled "King David."


Commissioned for award-winning magician Paul Green by his wife to mark his birthday, "King David" is a representation in paper of the King of Spades playing card, an oft-used tool of the close-up magician. The King of Spades is traditionally known as King David -- an acclaimed warrior, musician, and poet, and credited with writing most of the Book of Psalms.

The "King David" papercut brings together magic and Judaism in this birthday commission, backed in shades of green to represent Paul's name and his predilection for that color.

The background of the papercut features cut-up comics, featuring snippets of Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and others. The papercut also includes a section from Psalm 145 (from a book taken from the genizah before ritual burial), written by King David, which contains reference to "thy wondrous works" -- used by the artist as an allusion to Paul's magic. The English words of the psalm are found in the "top" face, and the corresponding Hebrew is found in the reverse.

Below are details of the two faces -- click the images to see them larger.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New papercut:
"Higher and Higher"

As I teased in an earlier post, I've been working on a new papercut inspired by the seventh chapter of Bereshit... here's a photo of it on my table (click it to see it larger).

Tentatively titled "Higher and Higher" -- named for one of the snippets of text in the background -- this papercut shows Noah's ark being raised by the uprushing "fountains of the deep" described in the Torah, while flooding rains fall from the sky.

The background is made up of a selection of grayscale and limited-palette comics, pages from a 1946 book of biblical commentary titled Pathways Through the Bible (which I rescued from the genizah box at our synagogue), and a photograph from an old National Geographic magazine.

Here are some close-up shots.