Does Canada have Jewish art? What defines Jewish art? University of Calgary art professor Jennifer Eiserman will address those questions on March 7, at 11am. The Zoom event is the fifth in Kolot Mayim Reform Temple’s 2020-21 Building Bridges lecture series.
With a wealth of visual support, Eiserman will introduce the rich esthetic traditions that inform contemporary Jewish art in Canada. The artists to be discussed include Sorel Etrog and his contribution to Canadian Modernism, the figurative work of printmaker Betty Goodwin, and the Jewish fantastical creatures of sculptor David Altmedj, who represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in 2007. Sylvia Safdie’s video installations of flowing water, sand, light and sound advance the traditional concerns of Canadian art with landscape and nature more commonly associated with the Group of Seven.
Growing up in Montreal, Eiserman experienced firsthand the national influence that the Saidye Bronfman Centre had in disseminating Canadian Jewish art. She spent her childhood in Montreal and her adolescence in Alberta’s Cypress Hills. She did her bachelor’s (art history) and master’s (education through the arts) at McGill University in Montreal, and a bachelor of fine arts (visual art) at the University of Regina. Her PhD, one of the first ever to use studio art as its method of inquiry, is from the University of Calgary, where she is now associate professor in the department of art. Her current research is in North American contemporary Jewish art and community-based Jewish art.
Eiserman is also a successful practising artist. She uses mixed media, crochet, watercolour painting, installation and public art projects to explore issues related to Jewish theology, philosophy and identity. Eiserman explains that her work is “what I call ‘visual midrash,’ my artistic response to sacred Jewish texts.”