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PORTFOLIO
HE-SHE
   - FEMME FATALE

THE LADIES ROOM
   - MAITRESSE
   - THE BABE DEN
   - 100% PURE HEROINE
   - STRONG & SEXY
   - CHANGED LANDSCAPES

THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL

LIGHT DRAWINGS

WHITE LACE

DIVINE LIGHT
   - Jewish Women of the Bible
   - The Tefillin Project
   - Two Generations X Seven
       Emotions
   - HOME
   - Shabbat Prayers
   - songs of the land
   - Garments-of-Light
   - embodied light
    - divine dahlias
   - DANCE TO THE MUSIC
   - wrestling with leviticus 18:22
   - Hallelujah

BET HAYYIM

URBAN ARCHEOLOGY & MODERN RUINS

THE WORLD OF DOLLS


EXHIBITIONS

Treasured: Honoring Precious
and Vanishing Worlds

Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center
Solomons, Maryland
June 15- August 26 2012
Gala Reception - July 13 2012

I am exhibiting two photographs of centuries-old Jewish gravestones from cemeteries in the Ukraine, and one photograph of a vandalized historic register farmhouse from NJ in this group exhibition that explores the beauty and vulnerability of the endangered, and highlights the fragility of vanishing worlds.

Bet Hayyim — The House of Life

I could see hundreds of stones jutting out of the hills in all directions, leaning this way and that like silent figures pushing out toward the sun. In the distance, the worn grey, beige and brown graves were stark monuments, reminders of the people who had lived out their lives in this place, and died.  

The cemeteries seemed to be swallowed up by nettles, wildflowers and hills of exuberant goldenrod. Where the ground had shifted, the displaced stones appeared as monoliths from some ancient civilization, left by time to lean against one another.

In August 2008 I travelled to the Ukraine for the first time, to meet two of my friends and to visit Odessa, the birthplace of my father. My two-week visit became an exploration into the history of the once vast community of Eastern European Jews and the relics they had left behind.

This odyssey started in Kiev at the ravine in Babi Yar, and took me to the tombs of Rabbi Nachman in Uman and the Ba’al Shem Tov in Medzhybizh, two historic Hasidic pilgrimage sites associated with the Kabbalah.  I crisscrossed the heartland, over 2000 kilometers, to visit cities, towns, and shtetls, and to photograph the carved tombstones in cemeteries dating back to the 1400’s. 

Each site and stone had a story to tell.  Although the only sound was the wind through the trees, I could feel murmuring voices from deep in the uneven ground.  The thick bramble and late summer grasses tightened around my ankles as I said “excuse me” to the spirits where I walked.

Each stone was an artistic treasure filled with iconographic beauty and mystery.  I saw elaborate carvings and primitive drawings, many with animal motifs:  lions, stags, eagles, dogs, hares, and such mythical creatures as winged griffins and unicorns. Other friezes depicted symbols of lineage and gender.  The pitcher pouring water represented the tribe of Levites, the assistants to the priests.  The Cohens, descendants of the Biblical priests, had two hands joined in a spread-fingered gesture of blessing.  There were hundreds of intricate candelabra images marking the graves of women whose duty it was to light the Sabbath candles.  Generosity was symbolized by hands giving out coins, while a learned person might have a book or a crown, the symbol of the Torah.  Some epitaphs were intricately carved, the stones decorated in an elaborate Jewish script covering the entire surface; others held only the most minimal outline of the Star of David.  Massive, six-foot-high sculptures of tree trunks with their branches cut off towered over the simpler stones.  Some retained a residue of ochre and blue paint, (perhaps the final touch of the engravers and stonecutters), while others were covered only in lichen and moss.

The Bet Hayyim that survived the destruction of the pogroms and the murder of the local Jewish community during the Holocaust have been abandoned to the elements for more than half a century.  Yet these “houses of the living” powerfully remind us of the centuries of life, art and ritual which thrived here.  For me, a first-generation American, an artist, a photojournalist, and a historical preservation photographer, they have become a portal to rediscovering my own Jewish heritage.

Ukraine Map


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