‘Speak Out’ Draws Jewish Women Artists

February 14, 2018
Alexandra Wiesenfeld, “Old Man”

In the era of #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and the grass-roots power of social media, many who have historically felt voiceless are finally speaking truth to power. An art show, “Speak Out,” now at Jewish Women’s Theatre (JWT), presents work that puts the spotlight on those who previously have been silenced.

Work by Los Angeles artists Pat Berger, Jenny Rubin, Corrie Siegel and Alexandra Wiesenfeld will be on display until March 5, touching on issues including homelessness and discrimination.

JWT, now celebrating its 10th year, stages original dramatic shows and recently was voted “Best Live Theatre on the Westside” by The Argonaut weekly newspaper. The theater’s art space, The Gallery@The Braid, presents exhibitions curated with an eye to complementing some of the performances.

Berger’s paintings in “Speak Out” highlight the struggle of living on the margins of society. On display is her series from the 1980s, “No Place to Go: Homeless in America.” To create the work, she spent five years visiting the homeless on Skid Row and capturing their portraits. One of her subjects sits on a folding chair, looking at an array of donated shoes. Another shows a person hunched over on a park bench next to a disposable cup, and behind the person is a beach scene with cyclists riding by. Her realistic depictions highlight her subjects’ humanity without romanticizing or politicizing them.

“I thought, how poignant that these paintings that she did in the ’80s are still so relevant today, and that she was willing to give them face and form when everybody else was making them invisible,” guest curator Georgia Freedman-Harvey said.

“These women lived within oppressive systems that in some way determined the path of their lives. — Corrie Siegel

Siegel’s multimedia work draws on the ordeals of her distant relatives who lived under Russian Cossack oppression and the Nazi occupation. She based her ink drawings on old family photographs, repeatedly outlining her subjects’ silhouettes like ripples on a lake, tree rings or lines on a topographic map.

“The women in the images are relatives, most of whom I never met, but their lives have shaped me,” Siegel wrote in an email. “These women lived within oppressive systems that in some way determined the path of their lives. When I trace circles around them, it helps me to give a shape to what I have gained from and lost from history.

Alexandra Wiesenfeld, “Old Man”
Corrie Siegel, “Irving, Bertha and Ralph”
Pat Berger, “A World Apart”

“This somewhat obsessive approach to tracing the contours of my relatives is a way for me to reflect on my own fractured relationship to history as well as the way we are all implicated in the injustices of the present,” Siegel added.

Wiesenfeld’s mixed-media drawings on paper employ vivid colors, abstract shapes and a frantic energy to make statements both personal and universal. Inherent in the Munich-born, Los Angeles-based artist’s drawings are commentaries on aging and isolation, as well as the pitfalls of success. “You and You” shows two heads touching, but the only facial features
you can make out are a pair of smudged red lips.

Rubin is a fashion designer with a clothing and accessories line called “Jeri Malone” who also creates prints. In the exhibition, her two digital prints on silk display a 1960s-era pop sensibility. One shows a dove holding a playing card in its beak, the ace of hearts, surrounded on four sides by the words “Peace is no game.” The other, “Shot in the Heart,” shows a red heart with black and white flowers on it and what appear to be drops of blood falling from it.

“The four artists collectively touch on many of the topics that are often left unspoken or spoken only about in hushed tones,” Freedman-Harvey said. “Through their art, they give us permission to take a stand, speak up and be the voice for what we each believe needs to be discussed in today’s world, whether about something that impacts us personally or in the larger community.”

“Speak Out” will be on display at The Gallery@The Braid, home of Jewish Women’s Theatre, 2912 Colorado Ave., Suite 102, Santa Monica through March 5. For more information, visit jewishwomenstheatre.org.

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