On Feb. 20, Vancouver-based artist Dina Goldstein’s Snapshots from the Garden of Eden opened at the Museum of Jewish Montreal (imjm.ca). The exhibit will be on display until May 17.
A collection of 11 large-scale black-and-white photographs, Snapshots re-imagines modernized versions of characters and passages from Jewish fairytales, folk stories and legends collected in the book Leaves from the Garden of Eden by award-winning folklorist Howard Schwartz. Drawn from Jewish oral and written traditions across the centuries, the stories span the Jewish world – from Italy to Afghanistan – bringing to life the diversity and vibrancy of this overlooked area of Jewish storytelling and heritage.
Renowned for her reinterpretations of cultural symbols, Goldstein’s Snapshots reframes Jewish lore both famed and forgotten through the eyes of the 21st century. “The resonance of Goldstein’s work stems from her ability to weave intricate visual narratives,” said curator Alyssa Stokvis-Hauer, “where the history of Jewish folklore is catapulted into the modern era with a cast of characters and film noir-esque scenes that are provocative, imaginative and layered with meaning.”
Playing with visual and narrative archetypes, Goldstein creates new connections and relevance by merging the traditional and whimsical with contemporary themes of technology, desire, justice and identity, exploring and reinvigorating the history and role of Jewish folk narratives in broader cultural memory.
Picture of His Life follows Amos Nachoum to the Canadian Arctic, where he hopes to fulfil his dream of photographing polar bears underwater. (photo from Hey Jude Productions)
The ocean, in its vastness, suits Amos Nachoum perfectly. It’s big enough for him to hide. Not from the great white sharks, orcas, manta rays and other large sea creatures he has obsessively sought out and photographed for four decades. But from his traumatic memories of the Yom Kippur War, and from his father’s impossible expectations.
“Amos has made a decision to put the war behind him, to put violence behind him, and to use the camera to tell a different story, a beautiful story, about men and nature,” Israeli documentary filmmaker Yonatan Nir said in a phone interview while his family frolicked nearby in the kibbutz pool. “I think, in a way, he’s reframing his life with his camera.”
Nachoum’s complicated saga is rendered with gravity and grace in Nir and Dani Menkin’s Picture of His Life, which screens in the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival March 3, 8:45 p.m., at Fifth Avenue Cinemas.
Picture of His Life is structured around Nachoum’s summer 2015 expedition to the Canadian Arctic, more than 3,000 miles from his Pacific Grove, Calif., home, to try and fulfil his ultimate dream of photographing polar bears underwater. (Hence, the second meaning of the film’s title.)
The epic documentary’s executive producer is Nancy Spielberg, a nice bit of irony given that her brother made a flick called Jaws many years ago that spawned a widespread, irrational fear of sharks.
Nir and Menkin originally wanted to make a documentary about Nachoum diving in Tonga a decade ago, but that undertaking proved too expensive. Instead, they made Dolphin Boy, a redemptive portrait of a traumatized young Arab healed by swimming with dolphins in the Red Sea, which earned worldwide acclaim.
As it turned out, the extra years were essential, and not just to raise the funds for four Jews (Nachoum, the directors, and veteran underwater cinematographer Adam Ravetch) and six Inuit to trek to and film at remote Baker Lake. The filmmakers’ taciturn and enigmatic subject had to reach a point where he was willing to confide his deeply hidden feelings and memories.
“He really didn’t talk until we got to the Arctic,” Menkin recalled on the phone from his car in Los Angeles, “and that’s when he started to open up.” Nir added, “Amos needed time to open up and to be able, finally, to let us deep into his soul and to tell it for the first time.”
After the Arctic trip, Nachoum gave surprisingly candid interviews to the Israeli press about both his postwar trauma and his father, who had fought in the War of Independence. His way of dealing with his past continued – and continues – to expand.
There’s no question that the process of making Picture of His Life contributed to Nachoum’s evolution. Nir and Menkin visited his father in the hospital near the end of his life, capturing a raw, powerful moment. They subsequently showed the footage to Nachoum with the understanding that they would include it in the film only if he gave his consent.
Nachoum was touched by the scene and agreed to its inclusion. He even enacted an onscreen form of reciprocation to complete the circle.
“We were able to create this closure between the father and the son, but only through the film,” Nir said. “It never really happened face to face.”
The personal story in Picture of His Life is wrenching, but the environmental component is pretty potent, too. “I see myself as a soldier for Mother Nature,” Nachoum declares in the film, but his desperate, late-career pursuit of the polar bear goes even deeper.
“At the end of the day, Amos was looking for his family,” Menkin said. “His family is the universe. It’s Mother Nature. He found his family and lives with it in harmony, and that’s what he wants us to do.”
Michael Foxis a writer and film critic living in San Francisco.
Lorne Greenberg’s solo show, Cuba, comprises photographic compositions, such as this one. (photos by Lorne Greenberg)
The origins of Lorne Greenberg’s solo photography exhibition Cuba can be traced back more than 35 years. “I had my MFA in photography from the University of Arizona in 1983,” he told the Independent. “In 1984, I began photographing Mexican street art.”
At first, he photographed on the American side of the border, but later visited Mexico several times, taking pictures of streets and buildings in many Mexican border towns. “I have an affinity for Latin American art,” he said. “I also read many Latin American writers.”
After a few years, though, Greenberg turned his artistic eye to other interests and new subjects. He only started refocusing on Mexico five years ago.
“In 2014, I began to photograph in Mexico again,” he said. “This time, I was interested in streets, buildings and yards, objects as artifacts of culture. I see it as the archeology of Man, a study of Man in his environment through the observance of objects and artifacts. There is no sky in my Mexican photos, but walls and doors and windows. Colours, shapes and lines, and where things are in relation to each other.”
He wanted to dig deeper in that direction, but, having been in Mexico multiple times, he turned to Cuba. “I had never been to Cuba before. I wanted to see it,” he said. “I heard that [Barack] Obama was going there, and I decided that I’d better go before Americanization.”
In spring 2016, Greenberg flew to Cuba for the first time. “Just me, my camera and my backpack. I came a few days after Obama left. I was there for about 10 days and visited three cities: Havana, Santa Clara and Trinidad.”
He wandered the streets and photographed doors and walls and windows, but with a new mode of expression. “I started seeing people,” he said. “Before, there were hardly any people in my photos. Now, I wanted to photograph them as part of the streetscape.”
He continued his Cuban exploration in 2018, on his second trip to the country. This time, he stayed exclusively in Havana. “When I was there, I ate, slept, photographed and listened to jazz,” he recalled. “It’s a vibrant place, with music a prevalent part of life.”
Again, he roamed the streets, without a plan, photographing houses and people. “Nothing is staged in my photos; nobody posed,” he said. “I just waited until I had a perfect image, and then I took it. I wasn’t trying to make a statement, didn’t have any preconceived idea. I just wanted to find what is there, discover the relationship between people and places, the coherence of individuals and their building backdrops. If some people didn’t want to be photographed, they would say it, and I didn’t take their pictures, but that happened only three times.”
In selecting the images to include in his solo show, from the hundreds he took in Cuba, he said, “I didn’t want to show just 10 or 15 large pictures. A single large image has a privileged status, and I wanted to create an experience of Cuba, to show people what I saw.”
Therefore, he compiled his photographs into compositions, which made it possible to increase the number of different images on display. Each composition is more than a collection of individual photos – it is a work of art on its own.
“There are 102 different pictures in the show, combined into eight compositions,” Greenberg said. “At first, I considered each composition as a tic-tac-toe grid, but it didn’t work. It was too orderly, too tight, didn’t give the sense of Cuba. Then I thought about the sculptures of Alexander Calder. I changed the layout of my compositions, opened them up, created a flow. They are not individual photographs anymore. They are installations, and they incorporate the gallery space as part of the experience. Each composition has a certain colour scheme, and its lines and shapes create a whole, simultaneously dynamic and static, random and structured.”
The arrangement of the compositions was as creative an endeavour as was taking photographs. “It was fun moving pictures around, seeing different possibilities. I could have done it for much longer, if I didn’t have a deadline for the show,” he joked.
Greenberg’s Cuban compositions reflect the political reality of the country. The lively colours of the buildings preen under the heat and light of the sun, while simultaneously exposing the peeling paint, dirty or moldy walls, and the rusty metal of fences and shutters, which hint at the poverty that exists in the country.
“I see beauty, aesthetics and humanity,” said Greenberg. “Poverty is more in the ethical dimension, and everything for me is in the aesthetic world.”
The show Cuba opened on Oct. 24 at the Zack Gallery and continues until Nov. 24. The opening reception was held on Oct 30. For more information on Greenberg’s work, visit lornegreenbergphotography.ca.
Olga Livshinis a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].
Michael Seelig is donating the proceeds from his exhibit Trees to the Zack Gallery. (photo by Olga Livshin)
Trees, Michael Seelig’s new solo photography exhibit at the Zack Gallery, opened last week. It is a fundraiser for the gallery, which is located in the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver.
Such philanthropic initiatives “are of ultimate importance to the gallery and the community, as everybody wins when the gallery is well-supported,” said Zack director Linda Lando. “We have approximately three benefits a year, and they come in different ways. Sometimes, they’re initiated by the artist, sometimes by myself or another staff member of the JCC.”
Seelig’s decision to donate all the proceeds came from the heart, and it’s not the first time. His previous show at the Zack, which was held five years ago, was also a benefit. “This is my way of contributing to the JCC,” he said in an interview with the Independent. “We have a longstanding connection to the centre. My wife was president of the JCC some time ago, and we’ve given several donations to the community over the years.”
Unlike his previous show, which focused on architectural images – Seelig was an architect before he retired – this show is all about trees. A cornucopia of greens dominates the gallery walls.
“When Linda asked me to do a show this year, I didn’t have much in mind,” he said. “I started going through my photographs, selected the best 20, and then realized that eight of them were photos of trees. Looking back, I’ve always photographed trees. Maybe I have an affinity for trees. So, I thought I’d make it the theme of this entire show.”
Seelig has been drawn to trees and their unique charm for a long time. “I think my love of trees comes from my childhood, when I was growing up in Israel,” he said. “Jewish people are the only ones I know who have a holiday dedicated to trees: Tu b’Shevat. During that holiday, we cherish trees, plant them, take care of them, so they can take care of us. That tradition probably influenced me from a young age to love trees and photograph them. I take photos of trees wherever I travel.”
In the Zack exhibition, there are pictures of trees from Israel and Scotland, Canada and Japan.
“There is a book I read recently,” Seelig said, “called The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben. He is a German forester and writer and he knows trees. He says trees form communities. They communicate with each other and with us. It was a fascinating book, and I agree with the author; his book inspired me. Have you noticed that old stumps sprout new growth sometimes? That is because there are other trees around. Trees are life-givers; they create the air we breathe. Without trees, there would be no life on earth.… In Canada, and particularly in British Columbia, we often take trees for granted. Most of us do not pause to look at them and admire their beauty, solidity and permanence. We forget that, without trees, our planet cannot survive. This show pays homage to trees in many parts of the world.”
Seelig’s trees are all different; each one has its own shape and personality. Some are gnarled and twisted, while others stretch up in straight lines.
“I like it that they don’t talk to me,” he joked. “Trees are my models, but they’re more obedient than people when it comes to posing for a photo. I can take my time snapping pictures of trees. They are perfect photography objects. A tree just stands there. You can walk around it, see it from 360 degrees or from underneath. And every view is different. You can’t do this with a person.”
In addition to Seelig’s photographs of trees, the show includes several watercolours, most of which he painted specifically for this exhibit. Only two small works are exceptions. “When I was looking through my archives in preparation for this show, I found a small painting, created by my father in 1940. He painted a street in Haifa, and there is a tree in the image. The second painting is mine; I painted it in 2010, also in Haifa. Seventy years passed between these two paintings, but their colour schemes are surprisingly similar. And there are trees in both paintings.”
The sizes of the images on display vary greatly. While Seelig’s father’s painting would fit in a school notebook, and most of the photographs are the perfect size for a family home, a huge triptych on canvas of one of his Kyoto garden photos would enliven a hotel foyer or a corporate conference room. “I invited some designers to the show,” Seelig said. “Maybe one of them would like it.”
Seelig’s approach to photography is consistently organic. He doesn’t edit his photos with Photoshop, doesn’t even crop them.
“My pictures are exactly what I see,” he said. “And now you see them, too. There are other photographers who manipulate their photos with editing software, many of them wonderful artists, but I don’t do that. I don’t call myself an artist either, even though I use my creativity for many things in my life. I used artistic judgment for my work as an architect, before I retired. Now, I make greeting cards and wedding invitations with my photographs and my paintings. I illustrated a couple of children’s books, written by my daughter and her husband. Even making dinner for our friends is a form of art for me.”
The Trees exhibit runs until Oct. 20.
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].
One of the most important issues we should be grappling with nowadays is the preservation of our habitat. At the forefront of the nature preservation movement are photographers and one of them is Liron Gertsman, a young, award-winning local nature photographer whose solo show, Essence of Earth, is at the Zack Gallery until Sept. 22.
The show is sponsored by Esther Chetner.
“Eldad Goldfarb, executive director of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, approached me about this upcoming sponsorship opportunity, aware of my own concern about climate change and my passion for photography,” Chetner told the Independent. “Though I’ve traipsed parts of the globe enjoying the wonders that photo details can deliver, I’m not at all technically trained nor technologically nimble…. I recognize the remarkable quality of Liron’s images, and see value in making his work accessible to others.”
Calling Gertsman a “rising star,” Chetner said, “Encouraging this type of exquisite work is another way to help people appreciate our natural world more deeply and then, hopefully, to work toward preserving such essential global health and diversity. The more we see and appreciate about our natural environment, the more we will all be inclined to proactively protect it.
“Jewish values are quite aligned with environmental stewardship, and so having Liron’s work displayed at the JCC seems like an appropriate fit.”
Part of the proceeds of the exhibit will benefit the gallery, and another part will go to the Nature Trust of British Columbia.
“There are several charities concerned with nature preservation in B.C.,” Gertsman said, “but I like the Nature Trust because they purchase land specifically to build and maintain a treasury of wild areas.”
“I’ve loved nature and taking photographs all my life,” he told the Independent. “Recently, I started moving toward doing it professionally, like giving photography workshops or guiding people on their bird-watching expeditions.”
His photographs are like a guided tour. “I want people to witness nature,” he said. “I want to share with them what I see, even if they can’t travel themselves.”
To cover some of his costs, he has, at times, formed partnerships with companies and organizations.
“I choose companies focused on nature conservation,” he explained. “They would subsidize some aspects of my trip, or sometimes an entire trip, in exchange for photo use and social media marketing, usually through my Instagram account, which has close to 50,000 followers.”
For instance, in May and August of this year, Gertsman partnered with Ocean Outfitters, an ecotourism company based in Tofino.
“They are Tofino’s first carbon-neutral ecotourism company, and they have committed to donating $200,000 a year for multiple years towards restoration of the Tranquil Watershed,” he said.
Gertsman’s photos at the Zack Gallery are full of life and colour. His birds seem to soar through the gallery space. His landscapes are like windows, looking out into the British Columbia wilderness. Stars twinkle in the night sky. Pink crags reflect in the still surface of the lake. Waterfall gurgles across the boulders. Owls hide in the grass, and gulls skim over the rippling wavelets. But the beauty and serenity of his images filled me with apprehension. Could we lose all of this gorgeousness? The night after I visited his show, I had a dream, and Gertsman’s imagery figured heavily in my dreamscape.
* * *
“What is it, Grandpa?” a girl asked.
“A picture archive,” the old man replied.
“But it’s not a memory crystal.”
“No, it’s from the 21st century, an antique. Two hundred years old,” he said, inserting an outmoded device into a slot of his com-link and opening the files. Hundreds of pictures appeared on his screen. Nature, when it flourished.
“Oh,” his granddaughter said with interest. “What are those?”
“Birds,” he whispered reverently. In the image, hundreds of small dark bodies hurtle across the peachy sky, their wings pumping so rapidly, the image blurred.
“Like a hologram in a museum?”
“Yes. Only they were alive. Flying.”
“But why is the wall pink? Why would they paint it pink?”
The old man glanced at the wall of the cave that housed the archives. Nobody lived on the surface of the earth anymore. Nobody could survive the toxic environment. People inhabited underground caverns such as this one and, mostly, they didn’t bother painting the walls. There were few resources anymore.
“It’s not a wall, it’s the sky,” he said. He had been very young when the last of humanity had moved underground, but he still remembered the sky. Scientists said that, in a few more generations, they could live outside again, but he wasn’t sure his granddaughter would last that long. He certainly wouldn’t.
“Our teacher said the sky should be blue,” the girl insisted.
“The sky could be any colour. This is probably sunset.”
“What is sunset?” She had never seen the sun.
He sighed, but, before he could explain, her gaze had skipped to another image.
“It looks like a fountain,” she marveled, “but what are these green blobs?”
The old man winced. “Trees. Bushes. It’s not a fountain. It’s a waterfall.”
Her finger zeroed in on another image. “I know,” she said triumphantly. “These are dogs. Strange dogs, though.”
“These are not dogs. These are bears. The mother bear is….” He contemplated the animals on the screen, trying to remember his own textbooks. He had never seen a living bear either. “I think she is as big as I am,” he said at last. “Maybe bigger. And the little bears are probably your size.”
“So huge?” She eyed him with doubt. “They lived outside, too?”
“I don’t think I’d like it outside,” she said. “Everything is different. I like it better here.” She climbed off her chair and started to leave. “We have everything here.” She went out into the corridor. “I think it’s all fairy tales anyway,” she called back.
The old man remained still, staring at the closed door with sadness.
* * *
Essence of Earth opened at the Zack Gallery. To see more of Gertsman’s work, visit lirongertsman.com or instagram.com/liron_gertsman_photography.
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected]
The Goldene Medina exhibit is designed to have the feel of a scrapbook album, to have come from any Jewish South African’s family memoir. (photo from South African Jewish Museum)
The Goldene Medina exhibit arrives in Vancouver July 29 for two weeks. A celebration of 175 years of Jewish life in South Africa, the exhibit was displayed in South Africa, Australia and Israel prior to arriving here, where it is making its North America debut at Congregation Beth Israel. Local Jewish community member Stephen Rom, who is from South Africa, saw it for the first time in Sydney and was instrumental in bringing it to the city.
“You need to remember your past to engage in the present,” reflected Rom. “I was struck by the level of professionalism of this exhibit, which was produced by the South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town. What’s different about it is the way the stories have been written. Nobody is named or personally identified. This is the story of all Jews in South Africa, the community as a whole.”
The Goldene Medina was the Jews’ name for Johannesburg when they arrived during the gold rush in 1886. “This exhibition has soul – it’s not a dry exhibition of facts and figures,” noted Wendy Kahn, national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. “It’s one that tells real stories of families that have been living in South Africa for 175 years.”
“This is a social history,” agreed Gavin Morris, director of the museum, “the story of families and people and their experiences as South Africans and as Jews for 175 years, from our forefathers arriving to contemporary Jewish South Africa. Everything is taken from unpublished memoirs, articles and out-of-print books, to give the exhibit a sense of a scrapbook album, of any Jewish South African’s family memoirs. Our goal was for people to find their own stories in similar stories.”
The stories are excerpts written in the first person and accompanied by photographs old and new. One excerpt, titled “My Mother’s Table,” reads, “At my mother’s table, ‘being full’ was never a reason to stop eating. Some of the many reasons to have some more included: ‘I cooked this especially for you because I know you like it,’ ‘you can’t put so little leftovers back into the fridge,’ ‘it’s freshly made,’ and ‘you don’t like my cooking.’ Refusing more was to snub the generosity and abundance that was on offer. Eating was proof that you were loved and that you knew how to love back.”
Another, titled “Cubs,” reads: “After my mom realized that I only knew Jewish kids, she sent me off to Cubs – not exactly your standard Jewish activity. I came home with my first friend and said, ‘Mom, isn’t it wonderful? Here’s my first friend from Cubs and guess what – we’ve got the same Hebrew teacher!’ He was the only other Jewish kid there and we found each other. My mother gave up after that.”
A third is titled “A Surprise Guest”: “What is the epitome of Jewish chutzpah? Inviting the president of the country to attend your bar mitzvah. And what is Jewish mazel? When the president actually accepts. The bar mitzvah boy delivered his handwritten note to a security guard outside [Nelson] Mandela’s Houghton estate. He hoped to get a card from Mandela in return. Instead, his parents received an official call to say the president will attend. On the day, President Mandela arrived and sat at the main table, between the bar mitzvah boy and his father.”
The excerpts are thought-provoking, poignant, entertaining, informative and never boring. And the photographs are deeply intriguing, telling a story of their own – a timeless Jewish story that has relevance to all Jews whose ancestors have known immigration and resettlement.
Accompanying the Goldene Medina in Vancouver will be the exhibit Shalom Uganda: A European Jewish Community on the Ugandan Equator 1949-1961, curated by Janice Masur.
“As a child, I lived in this remote European Jewish community on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kampala, Uganda, under British Imperial rule, with no rabbi or Jewish infrastructure. Yet, this tiny community of 23 families and 20 children (15 of whom were born in Kampala) identified as Jews and formed a cohesive group that celebrated all the Jewish festivals together,” explained Masur. “Now that most references to Jews in Uganda pertain to … Abayudaya Jews, I want this history – my story about my Ashkenazi Jewish community in Kampala – to be remembered in the Jewish Diaspora.”
The photos and stories that comprise the Ugandan display are, said Masur, “a testament to a determined but isolated group of Jews who were secular in a [remote] place but upheld their Jewish identity and traditions as best as was possible,” given the lack of religious, educational or cultural Jewish institutions. (For more about the Ugandan Jewish community in which Masur grew up, click here.)
The July 29 opening night of the Goldene Medina starts at 7:30 p.m. at Beth Israel, where the display will be up until Aug. 14.
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.
Yellow gazanias, by Pamela Fayerman. Eighteen of Fayerman’s macro photos form the exhibit Intimate Encounters, which is at VanDusen until June 27.
Well-known for her writing about medicine, science and health policy in the Vancouver Sun, award-winning journalist Pamela Fayerman has another area of expertise, perhaps somewhat lesser known: macro photography. Her first exhibit – Intimate Encounters: Botanical Closeups – opened at VanDusen Botanical Garden with a reception on April 6.
Born in Prince Albert, Sask., Fayerman grew up in Saskatoon. She moved to Toronto to attend Ryerson University School of Journalism, with the intention of becoming a photojournalist. While she changed her mind about that, she said the “photography courses at Ryerson taught me about important things like using light, subject composure and print developing. Even though everyone does digital photography these days, the foundations for those of us who learned on old SLR cameras are still pertinent.
“While I was at Ryerson, I got an incredible break with a story scoop that would be a defining career opportunity,” she said. “I sold the front-page story to the Globe and Mail and then I was invited to continue working there on a freelance basis. When I graduated from Ryerson, the company – then called FP Publications – offered me a job at their other newspaper: the Winnipeg Free Press.”
Fayerman worked at the Free Press for five years, mostly covering the law courts. During that time, she took a year break to study at Queen’s law school, focusing on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“When I moved to Vancouver in the mid-1980s, the law beat was already taken,” she said, “so I had a variety of beats, including City Hall, before landing the medical beat in 1995. I think I’m probably the most experienced medical journalist in Western Canada and I’ve certainly had plenty of incredible professional development opportunities through American fellowships at places like Columbia University, MIT and the National Institutes of Health. It’s a highly challenging, satisfying beat for someone like me with insatiable curiosity. I cover health policy, which involves stories about the politics, economics and mechanics of the healthcare system; medical research; and clinical medicine. The latter often involves the mind-blowing ‘wow’ stories about lifesaving innovations.”
Fayerman became interested in botanical photography about a decade ago, she said, “because I’m obsessed with plants and gardening. It’s the only thing I do that could be described as mindfulness, and that’s important because journalists always take our work home with us. We never stop thinking about the stories we’ve just finished or the ones we’re working on.”
Fayerman said the best way to capture the biology and anatomy of plants in detail is with a macro lens.
“Flowers are so often extravagant and exotic and they are a naturally ideal subject for macro photography because of their sensual shapes, sublime colours and luscious textures,” she explained. “Plants always have hidden, intriguing beauty, often only revealed through macro photography. I use available light and get really close to the mysterious microstructures of plants.”
Her talent for photography has been recognized in various ways, including her being chosen as one of about 100 photographers across the country to participate in the Canada’s Golden Hour Photo project.
“The period right after sunrise and just before sunset is when you can achieve some magic in colour photos, especially blues and mauves,” she said. “In my exhibition, there’s a photograph of an echeveria succulent I shot in California that is a nice demonstration of how to exploit the golden hour before sunset.”
In addition to journalism and photography, Fayerman said, “For about 15 years, I’ve volunteered at the Louis Brier nursing home. In May, I put plants in the pots in the Shalom courtyard and then I tend to the plants weekly until November. My mother was a resident for a short time before her death and this was a project my family initiated in her memory. The residents and family members often express their appreciation because it beautifies the area, which is quite a serene oasis. Last year, one of the residents asked me weekly if I would plant some medical marijuana as well!”
Fayerman also volunteers as a board member for the Vancouver Botanical Garden Association.
“When I learned about the Yosef Wosk Library at VanDusen, that has a gallery inside it named for Roberta Mickelson, I was keen to get my first exhibition there,” said Fayerman, who has been selling her photos for several years via her website, pamelafayerman.com. “I’ve got 18 photographs on display – all of them for sale – including works on paper and on canvas. The retail store at VanDusen is also now carrying my matted prints.”
Intimate Encounters runs until June 27. For more information, visit vandusengarden.org/learn/library.
The new show at Zack Gallery, #SeasonsAtZack features Instagram artists. A fundraiser for the gallery, the exhibit is extremely eclectic.
“The theme of the show is based on the theme of Festival Ha’Rikud, ‘Seasons of Israel,’” said Daniel Wajsman, marketing coordinator at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver. “Every year, the gallery has a group show to coincide with the festival and the artists submit their paintings to the gallery. This year, we thought: why don’t we do social media instead? These days, everyone has a camera…. We all take pictures with our phones and share them with friends and family. This is one step further. Why can’t we share our photos with everyone? That’s what Instagram does – it is a site where we share our images with the world. That’s what we aimed for in this show at the Zack. We wanted to change the concept of what art is.”
The gallery started with the idea that only artists who have an Instagram account would be featured in the exhibit, but later opened the submission process to everyone, said Wajsman. All of the images from the show will be on the JCC’s Instagram page and prints will be available for purchase in different sizes and formats.
About a third of the photos in the exhibit come from a select group of people: staff members of several Jewish organizations, who went to Israel in April for a professional seminar. The organizations participating in the seminar were the JCC, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, Jewish Family Services, Louis Brier Home and Hospital, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre and Nava Creative Kosher Cuisine.
“We work closely together, but we don’t all know each other,” said Wajsman. “Some of us are Jewish, and some are not. The seminar had a double goal: to teach us about Israel and Jewish history and to connect us with each other.”
Regular visitors to the Zack Gallery will be familiar with many of the photographers in the exhibit. Some of the photos are by artists who have exhibited previously at the gallery – like Lauren Morris, Michael Abelman and others – and submitted photographs of their paintings for the show.
Another set of participants includes local masters of photography, such as Jocelyne Hallé, Judy Angel and Ivor Levin. Each one has more than one of their images on display.
Halle’s “Sunflowers” photo was taken recently. The bright sunny heads of the large flowers contrast sharply with the heavy stormy clouds overhead, and the juxtaposition evokes strong emotions. “It wasn’t Photoshopped at all,” said Hallé. “It’s just the way I took it.”
In contrast, Angel’s airy images glow and shimmer with transparent sunlight. They are so light, they seem translucent, able to fly off the wall like magical butterflies.
Beside them, Levin’s photos look like drawings, their colour schemes and compositions inspired by the rains and umbrellas of the autumn season in Vancouver.
New artists also have a strong presence in this show. For them, having their names under their art on the gallery walls is a fascinating experience. One of this crowd is Linda Lando, the Zack Gallery director. “I’m not an artist,” she said. “I’ve never displayed anything before.”
One of her photos, the colourful “Ein Gedi Night,” was taken on her trip to Israel, as a member of the seminar. “We visited Kibbutz Ein Gedi late at night,” she said. “It is a beautiful floral oasis in the desert. They have amazing flowers, and this blooming tree was near the entrance.”
Robert Johnson, also part of the seminar and a longtime JCC employee, has a couple of his photos in the show. One of them is particularly memorable: a photo of a camel with a sad expression, lying under a tree. The title of the photograph is “This is Not a Camel.”
“He talked to me,” Johnson said with a smile. “People were riding him all day, and he didn’t want to be a riding camel anymore.”
The variety of the images in the show is mind-blowing: from Israeli landscapes to mud bathers on the shore of the Dead Sea to abstract composition. #SeasonsAtZack continues until June 9.
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].
Shira Gold’s photographs seem to create a break in the space-time continuum. For a moment, the busyness and noise of the world fades away, and the viewer is standing on a beach watching the light and shadows of the clouds over the ocean, or in a snowy field, inhaling the crisp, cool air. A quiet contentment, a sombre joy.
Gold is one of some 30 artists joining the West of Main Art Walk for the first time this year. More than 60 artists will open their homes or studios to the public over the Mother’s Day weekend, May 11-12. Several other Jewish community members are also participating, including Michael Abelman, Olga Campbell, Pnina Granirer, Lauren Morris and Rae Maté, some of whom have been involved from the beginning in what used to be called Artists in Our Midst – Granirer co-founded the walk with Anne Adams in 1993.
“Crissy Arseneau and I were invited to join in by our All Together Collective partner painter Amy Stewart,” Gold told the Independent. “We are reuniting at Amy’s studio on Granville Island for the weekend of the walk. I chose to participate because showing locally is something that is important to me. The walk is a unique way to see the immense talent of creators that live in our city. The types of work being shown will be so diverse, crossing many mediums, and the artists vary from emerging to seasoned Vancouver talent. I also love the idea of being able to visit artists in the spaces they create their work in.”
While there is a preview exhibit and sale on May 9 at the Roundhouse Community Centre, with donated artwork being sold to raise money for Coast Mental Health’s art programs, some artists are raising money for other projects over the weekend. Granirer, for example, is offering her works at 50% off as a fundraiser for Stand Up for Mental Health, which was started by her son, David Granirer, to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, among other things. Gold will be selling her fabric-based prints May 11-12, with proceeds going to the Children’s Arts Umbrella Foundation in honour of her mother, Melanie, z’l, “paying tribute to her work in helping shape the school in its early years.”
Growing up, Gold took classes in various visual and performing arts at Arts Umbrella. “I was introduced to photography at Arts Umbrella in my early teens, when they began courses in film photography and darkroom,” she said. “As a child, words and pencils often failed me. Capturing and making images was a way for me to express my view of the world. Having a camera in hand changed the trajectory of my life.”
However, Gold said, “I pushed pause on photography for several years and turned my attention towards fashion design. I worked in design and manufacturing in Montreal, which ended abruptly when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I took on the role as her caregiver for three years, until her passing. During that time, she and I began to recognize the immense need for patients and caregivers to learn how to engender support around their illnesses, learn advocating strategies and engage in mind/body medical tools to help support a positive mindset through health challenges. We began to develop offerings to meet these needs.
“My mom passed away before this was fully realized. Along with my husband, I gleaned the knowledge through personal experience, as well as course work at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Harvard’s continuing medical classes … to write and complete a workbook/guidebook entitled Choosing Joy’s Empowerment Index. Not long after completing the book, I became pregnant with my first child. It was a time of great introspection. I began to recognize that the pursuit of Choosing Joy was a way for me to keep my mom’s memory alive and not a personal pursuit and decided to change paths. We chose to donate the books created to nonprofits that could share them with people in need.”
About her choice of a new path, Gold said, “Care-giving, grief, new motherhood – those collective experiences reshaped my outlook on how I chose to spend my days and I was ready to begin to deconstruct and share my experiences with others in the hopes of creative dialogue around common issues of struggle and transition. I started my first major body of work – ‘Reflect, Transform, Become’ – as I was preparing to welcome my second child.
“Shot over several years, taking a handful more to complete, the series of 18 women documents the trials and metamorphoses that come with new motherhood, as well as the challenges of experiencing new life without my mother in it,” she said. “This reclaiming of my visual voice shaped my identity as I settled into motherhood. The release of this work was a turning point in my life.”
“Reflect, Transform, Become” has been recognized with honourable mentions from the International Photography Awards and the Julia Margaret Cameron Awards. Her series “Good Grief,” which she describes as “a visual dissertation of my grief journey,” has had selections shown in Italy, Greece, the United States and here in Vancouver. Locals will recognize many of the places Gold has photographed.
“In fact,” she said, “the majority of my work is shot within 10 minutes from my children’s school. Some may perceive the limitations of time and spaces as prohibitive to their creative process, but I like to look at it as an advantage. My reality creates parameters which have enabled me to hone my eye and find moments that are meaningful to me, often minute and fleeting.”
As for the ways in which Judaism or Jewish community influence her approach, Gold said, “I think our culture, our religion, encourages reflection – personal reflection, reflection of our people and their struggles. There are built-in meditative moments in our prayers, in our holidays, in our services, to give us space to look inward. To learn and to digest our past and what has been is a large component of my work. As Jewish people, we actively choose in our times of joy to remember our hardships and, in our times of hardship, to find joy – I am mindful of this as I work and in life.”
In her artist’s statement, Gold writes, “I create portraits rich with emotion, conveying moments saturated by our struggles with grief, identity and change.” But what about the quiet joy that those portraits also convey?
“You are absolutely right,” she acknowledged, “there is pause (stillness) and calm in my imagery. It is intentional; as one who lives my days with a busy mind, there are few things that create pause and reflection. I also have found that, in my grief journey, my mind had made space for pause, for reflection and my world felt very desaturated and vacuous. Those moments were translated in my imagery through the various series documenting my pathways through this terribly difficult process of loss.
“I have been largely directed over the last decade by lyrics of a song by the band Frou Frou – ‘There’s Beauty in the Breakdown.’ Here is a little selection from the song: ‘So let go / And jump in / Oh well whatcha waiting for / It’s all right / ’Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown / (So let go) yeah let go / And just get in / Oh it’s so amazing here / It’s all right / ’Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown.’
“Sometimes, in the deep struggles and darkest moments, beauty abounds. It may shake us and break us down,” she said, “but, if open to it, there is an incredible opportunity to witness the heights of compassion, love, expectance, transformation, connectedness and joy.”
“Sydney Beach Cliff” (Australia) by Talin Wayrynen.
Art Vancouver’s dictum is “Connect. Inspire. Educate.” This year’s fair brings together almost 100 exhibitors from around the world to Vancouver Convention Centre East April 25-28, and features art classes, guided tours, speakers, panel discussions and a café art crawl. Both veteran and emerging artists participate, and the Jewish Independent spoke with a few artists in the Jewish community who are newcomers to the exhibition world: Matthew Weinstein, Talin Wayrynen and Tara Lupovici.
“I had a chance to volunteer at last year’s show,” Weinstein told the Independent. “Seeing the great professionalism demonstrated by the Wayrynen family inspired me to submit a formal application to this year’s exhibition.”
Art Vancouver was launched in 2015 by Lisa Wolfin Wayrynen. It has become somewhat of a family affair, with this year’s exhibitors including her daughters, Taisha Teal Wayrynen and Skyla Wayrynen; her son, Talin Wayrynen; and her sister, LeeAnn Wolfin.
“We just exhibited in Korea last November, and were invited to participate in another show in Seoul in June, and another show in Taiwan in December,” said Lisa Wolfin Wayrynen, referring to her and her children. “The family act is on the move!”
The 2019 Art Vancouver will be Talin Wayrynen’s second time exhibiting at the fair. An aerial photographer, among other things, he will be exhibiting photos from Australia and New Zealand, and possibly Indonesia. Last year, he said, he displayed photos of British Columbia and Mexico.
Weinstein said he will be bringing a select number of pieces to the show. Describing his art as “abstract and minimal in nature,” he said, “The purpose is to bring peace and tranquility to contemporary rooms…. My passion is to make large multi-coloured pieces that are not just pleasant to look at, but also provoke questioning and inspiration.”
About his creative process, Weinstein said, “The numbers and letters may appear as if they are there to provide meaning when in fact they are just as nonrepresentational as the rest of the shapes. One might ask, ‘Why did you add the number 7 at the bottom right corner of this piece?’ My answer would be, ‘There is no concrete reason behind that decision. It is as random as the rest of shapes, colours and signs you’re seeing. If you’re asking this question then I’ve accomplished my goal to generate interest and promote inspiration.’”
Lupovici, whose artist signature is LUPO, said, “My art is a psychedelic, abstract combination of organic and fluid lines with colour combinations that are inspired by the colours I feel.”
This year’s fair will be Lupovici’s first Art Vancouver, but she has a previous connection to the Wayrynen family. “I went to camp with Taisha and Skyla, Lisa’s daughters,” she said.
A graduate of Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s fashion marketing program, Lupovici said fashion was her main focus, and she has worked in various places, including with her father (Irwin Lupovici), at Bong Wear. “Then, one day,” she said, “I was making dinner and cut a red cabbage in half and boom! My passion for painting was back in my life.”
She has dedicated the last year or so to painting. “Eventually,” she said, “I will mesh my art and fashion design together and have my LUPO label.”
Half-Jewish and half-Chinese – she also speaks Cantonese – Lupovici said, “I definitely would not be the person I am without all the Jewish culture and community that I have been surrounded by. Jewish summer camp was one of the most memorable, loveliest times of my childhood and I am, to this day, close with many of the people I went to camp with. I would not say it has influenced me in design and art, but I do feel being Jewish and meeting other people in the community is inspiring in itself.”
Weinstein also said his being Jewish has had little influence on his work. However, he said, “Having grown up in a suburb of Tel Aviv, I feel connected to my Jewish identity…. The last time I visited Israel was in 2011 and I am very excited to visit again in May…. My upcoming trip is something I look forward to, as it provides a rare chance to explore my roots and reinforces my personal connection to Judaism.”
More travel is also in Wayrynen’s plans, having recently been to Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand.
“I started using drones just for fun in 2016 and then, in 2017, started using them for film and photography,” he said.
While he couldn’t describe the exact elements of a “perfect” shot, he said, “I like to have stuff that’s unique and can’t really be replicated – like a wave crashing, shots of wild animals or something along those lines.”
As an example, last summer, in Horseshoe Bay, he filmed a group of killer whales, which was later featured by CBC.
Not just anyone is allowed to use drones, of course, and Wayrynen said permission currently depends “on where and for what reason you fly, but it’s soon to be just a licence no matter what.”
In British Columbia, he said, “[I]t’s unlikely to get a permit to fly anywhere remotely populated and even some parks have issues with it. The states are pretty similar and, as for Mexico, I was working on a TV show that did all the paperwork for it, all I provided was the licence and insurance. We were able to film basically anywhere there during the few weeks our permits lasted.”
Weinstein summed up well the importance of venues like Art Vancouver. “If you’re reading this,” he said, “please feel free to come by my booth at the upcoming show and let me know what you think of my art. I enjoy listening to all criticism (both good and bad) and, if you have other suggestions, I’ll be happy to discuss in person.”
For more information on and tickets to Art Vancouver, visit artvancouver.net.