Friday, July 11, 2014

Cutting "paper midrash" at Camp Newman, 2014

The Hagigah Peachy Levy Festival was held at Camp Newman last night, and it was an incredible evening of arts for all who attended. And since they've now been unveiled, I'm posting photos and descriptions of my campers' "paper midrash" projects.

Each camper had to find a story or character they wanted to explore and develop with the aid of knife and paper. Some worked with one of the session rabbis to find fascinating little tidbits, others made up their own commentaries, and all of them created stunning work. Underneath them you'll find their own words describing their work; click any of the photos to see them bigger; there are some incredible pieces of comics in the backgrounds, often driving a lot of additional meaning.

Amy F: In Aramaic, the word “nun” means fish. My hebrew name starts with “nun,” so I began thinking about fish in the Torah. Jonah and the whale was the first story I thought of. In Hebrew, Jonah is “Yonah,” which also means dove. I put doves inside of a “dag gadol” (big fish) to symbolize this.

Ben G: In this piece I drew Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai. I then filled it with random pictures and colors to match the tone of the details surrounding the mountain. [Look for the image of a hand in the clouds above the mountain.]

Brooke H: For my paper midrash project, “We Can Only Hope,” I created a scene where the Egyptian princess sits by the water desperately waiting for a child. What she doesn’t know is that baby Moses is floating towards her. To save his life, Moses’ family had placed him in the water. People always say that Moses surviving was the biggest miracle that day, but I always considered the princess’ prayers being answered as the main miracle.

Natalie R: There is a midrash that says that Lilith gave the apple to Eve to give to Adam. Lilith was the real first woman. She was created simultaneously as Adam but she was kicked out of the Garden of Eden for defying Adam.

Samantha R: The light the dark lamps were given to give light at the front of the lampstand. While going to the Promised Land the Israelites needed a light to guide them. Hope is what seeing a light in the dark can mean to some. In the well-known saying, “the light at the end of the tunnel,” the long trek in the dark to finally see the dot of light gives them hope that they will see the sun again.

Cole: My midrash project depicts a scene from Mount Sinai. The Torah and commentaries tell of God’s voice coming down on the mountain as well as thunderclouds with lightning striking the mountain. Also, Sinai is up in flames.

Evan R: This papercut is about the story of Esau and Jacob [inspired by text from Sefer haAgaddah]. While Esau is a beautiful flower, Jacob is a plain tree. A they age, Esau becomes more rough and grows thorns, while Jacob bears beautiful fruit. The bowl of soup shows the transaction between the two brothers for the birthright. The sun is like G-d, who supplies the two plants/brothers.

Sander F: The rabbis say that instead of the Ten Commandments being carved into stone, Moses used a sapphire for inscription. This piece ["Sapphire at Sinai"] shows a blue stone at the top of the mountain, just where Moses would’ve found the sapphire he used.

Ethan T: For my midrash, I chose to do it on Noah’s Ark. I was always fascinated by the story of Noah’s Ark, and I thought this would be a great interpretation of the story. I decided to add a sun because I thought it would add more to the piece.

Rachel K: Midrash Toledot Yitzchak says, “When the Holy One rebuked the moon, and it fell, some sparks fell from it into the sky — these are the stars.” I chose this as my theme because I really liked that even though the sparks weren’t necessarily supposed to fall, they became the stars, which I believe to be one of the most beautiful things in the world.

Rachel: "When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban's sheep,
he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle's sheep."

Nichole H: My midrash project ["Beyond the Light"] is based off of a verse in Sefer haAgaddah (Book of Legends) that states: “The seven lamps of the lamp stand correspond to the seven planets, which range over the whole earth.” I put a menorah inside of earth, surrounded by the seven planets to represent this. Each planet is either the actual color, or the color it is perceived to be.

Josef P: This is a papercut of Joseph and his coat ["Joseph by Josef"]. The left side of the coat symbolizes the destruction and famine Joseph predicted [for Egypt]. The right side is the coat as it is normally represented, being colorful.

David J: For my midrash ["Save the Animals"], I decided to do the story of Noah’s Ark. I chose to do three pairs of animals: lion, cat, and turtle. I cut them at an angle towards the ark to try to show them moving towards it. The animals are made of dark colors to reflect their modes. They are angry and distraught that they have been uprooted from their homes. The ark, however, is in a very light color, to show how it is like a beacon of home and life for the animals. There is a silver gray arc through the ark, meant to be like the rainbow that appears at the end of the storm.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

East, at Camp Newman
(Wait, what?)

Yeah, that's right: east. Because the first papercutting project I completed with the Hagigah campers this summer at URJ Camp Newman was a mizrach, an ornamental wall plaque used to indicate the direction of prayer (east) in Jewish homes. We brainstormed as a group to get some ideas going, but each student designed their own mizrach, and then backed it with comics.

And since the big Peachy Levy Festival is tonight, when the campers' work will be unveiled, I figure it's fairly safe to post images here. And coming up soon, photos of the campers "paper midrash" projects!

Sunrises and skylines were recurring themes, but each camper found a unique way to present them.

Some of the pieces showed a reliance on abstract forms, while others were more representational.

And since every camper picked their own way to express the concept of "mizrach"
there were some out-of-the-box ideas, like this dove which is made of the letters
"shalom" – peace, in Hebrew.

Campers were given guidance on how white space can help create an emotional component.

Translating ideas into the papercut medium was a new experience for many of the campers.

Defining larger spaces (such as these clouds) by breaking them into smaller parts
allowed for some creative collage in the backgrounds.

Sometimes the artist creates a piece with one meaning, but others see it differently.
For instance, I see the Hagigah "train" in the rays of this rising sun.

Campers incorporated English or Hebrew or both (or none) in their works.

The simplicity of these Hebrew letterforms gives them strength and directness.

Fewer compass roses this summer, but there were some.

I love the exclamation point here – you can hear how loud this piece is.

The contrast between the large sun and the small village is striking.

An unfinished but promising piece featuring script Hebrew and English side-by-side.

A first papercut reveals a camper's natural facility for creating stained-glass like elements.

The phases of the moon atop the rising sun, surround sofer-style Hebrew letters.

Another skyline, this one leveraging some advertisement elements from the comics.

Size and distance and white space can create a dramatic narrative out of simple shapes and colors.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Camp Newman mosaic!

It's up!

This summer at URJ Camp Newman I co-designed and co-created a GIANT mosaic with Alaina and Charles Yoakum, to be the first art up on the new cabins – and this weekend it was installed, and it looks great! Alaina is another artist-in-residence with Hagigah, and teaches sculpting to the campers – this summer was our first camp collaboration, and her husband was instrumental in making sure we got it right... since it was our first ever mosaic. We had 16 campers in our group working on this, virtually every day for two weeks, and we're very pleased with the result.

Inspired by the words of Ma Tovu (How lovely are your tents, o Jacob), featured in English and Hebrew at the tops of the panels, the mosaic comprises a camp-like mountain scene, complete with the camp's star at the top of the hill. There are 18 tents on the hills, each designed by a camper (Alaina and I each had a tent to design with our spouses as well) – and it really looks wonderful.

We created it as four panels, designed to be placed two by two as shown above. Here's what they look like closer up.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Guerrilla art at Camp Newman

I promised some goodies, right? And I deliver! These are pix of the three posters that spring up all over camp just before Shabbat – a little stencil work inspired, perhaps, by the likes of Robbie Conal and Shepard Fairey.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cutting Paper at Camp Newman, 2014: Part 1

I've returned from my annual residency at URJ Camp Newman, and I had (as usual) a wonderful time – two weeks teaching papercutting to the campers in the Hagigah session, praying in the midst of giant trees, hanging out with our once-a-year faculty friends, and even trying a few new things (more on that to come).

First, however, I wanted to share some photos from my papercutting workshop. This year I had a group of 18 kids cutting with me every day (yikes!) – a very big group, but also a very talented group.

I've written in past years about Hagigah – the camp session focused on Jewish expression through the arts (fine art, dance, music, writing, photography, video, and more). They're all high school students, and many of them have been coming to Camp Newman since they were little.

First day? We get knives (after a talk on knife safety). And then we're off to the races, with two hours a day of cutting.

The first project was a mizrach, an ornamental wall plaque used to indicate the direction of prayer (east) in Jewish homes. We brainstormed as a group to get some ideas going, but each student designed their own mizrach, and then backed it with comics.

The second (big) project was to create "paper midrash" – using papercutting to tell or add to a story from the Tanakh (Torah, prophets, and writings) or midrash.  Some chose to work with stories from the b'nei mitzvah portions, or related to their names, or they just found something that interested them – it was entirely up to them (with a little guidance from me and some camp rabbis).

Both works from all campers will be shown in the annual "Peachy Levy Festival of the Arts" held at camp at the end of Hagigah. I'm holding back photos of the finished pieces until after the festival – that way the kids can premiere their work. But I *do* have pictures of the BACKS of their pieces...