Thursday, February 26, 2015

The People of the (Comic) Book

Some of you have asked for a copy of the slides I made for the class I taught the other night at my synagogue, called "The People of the (Comic) Book" — so here's a PDF. I should warn you – there are no presenter notes in it, and not a lot of words on the slides either. I have mostly images (and a few dates) used to help me tell the story of the beginning of comic books, focusing on the Jewish creators. I also have a section on Jewish characters... but again, lots of pictures, not much in the way of words. I talk about this topic a lot, and I no longer need notes to do so.

People of the (Comic) Book

Monday, February 23, 2015

Washington Workshops at Congregation Kol Ami

I just flew back from the Pacific Northwest, and boy are my arms tired! From cutting paper!

OK, I'm no comedian. But I did, in fact, just return from a long weekend in Washington and Oregon, where I was leading a papercutting workshop at a synagogue, checking on the windows I designed for a day school, and also just having some fun. Want to read about it? Then you're in the right place!

I love the design and thought that go into the making of airplane safety brochures. Just love it. And I took it as a good omen that across the aisle from me a gentleman was reading a trade book with DC's "Shade the Changing Man" comics in it. Obscure! Perfect for a Portland citizen, right?

The entire flight up I was amazed to see gorgeous, snow-covered peaks from 30,000 feet up – just beautiful. And those dots? A close-up of the wall next to my seat. Just thought it looked cool.

There's a lot of water in the Pacific Northwest – and so, a lot of bridges. Portland has ELEVEN, I am told, and I was on at least half a dozen of them.

There was an exhibit of quilted tapestries at the airport, much of the work featuring bridges.

And then there's the Portland Cuckoo Clock, in the airport. I've got a picture of the description here because it was crazy awesome.

Congregation Kol Ami of Vancouver, Washington, had invited me to up be their artist-in-residence for the weekend, working with their high school students and teaching them to make their own "paper midrash."

Their synagogue is beautiful – three years old, modern and sleek but warm and welcoming as well. Their ark has a gorgeous "parting of the Red Sea" design and a blown glass ner tamid that complements the theme. And the sanctuary has one wall of glass which looks out upon Mount St. Helens. Just beautiful, the way the building is situated on the grounds and integrated with the landscape.

As usual, I started off the workshop talking (a little) about what I do, teaching a little about papercutting (a little more), and going over knife safety (a LOT). And then, after a warm-up project cutting out their names, we jumped into "paper midrash."

We talked as a group about the idea of midrash – stories about stories – and how we can add to those stories, especially by creating art to express our ideas about them.

The students each found a story that held some meaning from them – such as Creation, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac, and stories and legends from deeper in our tradition, discovered in Sefer haAgaddah – and planned their work. They sketched and drew and erased and measured... and then began to cut.

The students had a break Saturday night, and while they did their own thing, so did I! My good friends Debra and Lisa showed me around Portland – including the world famous Powell's Books.

We had dinner at a great Mexican restaurant and got to visit Debra's studio, which was furnished with a mix of vintage knick-knacks and artifacts and state-of-art design equipment.

 Sunday morning I headed back to Congregation Kol Ami to continue working with my students.

The engagement of the students was matched only by their inventiveness. They really put all of themselves into their projects, and came up with some incredible work.

And of course, I had brought a big box of comics for them to cut up and incorporate into their work – just as I do. (Thank you again, Brave New World Comics!)

Really, just spectacular work.

Two days with them, and already creating things I will DEFINITELY STEAL. Not really. But I am genuinely inspired by what my students created.

A wonderful congregation, and a wonderful community.

(As for the rest of my adventures... you'll have to read this.)

Thirteen Windows in Portland

This past Sunday afternoon, as part of my weekend in the Pacific Northwest, I visited Portland, Oregon, to see the Maimonides Jewish Day School, which had commissioned me to create designs for the 13 windows of their new building entryway.

The windows represent the major holidays of the Jewish year as well as daily and weekly observances. The designs are printed on film and mounted between glass, so that they can be seen from both sides, and so the sun can illuminate them and bring vibrancy and joy to the entrance – which is what you want in a kids' school, if you ask me. (And they did!)

Unexpectedly, the late in the day the sun shines from the front of the building, and creates a special surprise inside the building...

Gorgeous interplays of light and shadows from the windows, which move around the building throughout the day and create unexpected bursts of color.

And even the shadows cast inside the window frames themselves are wonderful.

I can't wait to see the inset lights installed so that even at night the windows will be filled with color. If all goes well, I'll have the chance in March to see exactly that!

(If you're interested in the rest of my adventures in the Pacific Northwest, read about them here!)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Paper Mishnah – Now Showing in Los Angeles

"Wisdom: The Tree of Life" is now open at American Jewish University. It's a multimedia group show, and I have ten papercuts included — including a new series based on the six orders of the Mishnah.

The Mishnah is the oldest authoritative post-biblical codification of Jewish Oral Law, and my series represents each of the six orders of the Mishnah with its own papercut. All six incorporate cut-up Daredevil and She-Hulk comics — superheroes who also work as lawyers.

The show is curated by Georgia Freedman-Harvey and also features work by photographer Sandra Klein, sculptor Maddy LeMel, and painter Karen V. Woo. 

American Jewish University is located in Los Angles, at 15600 Mulholland Drive.