“Jerusalem Market, 1959,” watercolour and pencil, by artist Pnina Granirer, a graduate of Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. Granirer will have a table of her artwork for sale in the atrium of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver on Dec. 3, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., as part of the Chanukah Around the World party marketplace. The works will be unframed, priced from $100 to $500, with all proceeds being donated to Israel, in the hope that the donation will help it in its hour of need. For more on Granirer, go to pninagranirer.com.
The party is a joint event with multiple community partners: King David High School, Vancouver Talmud Torah, Richmond Jewish Day School, PJ Library, Camp Miriam, Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia, and the Kollel. In addition to the marketplace, it will feature games, iSTEAM activities, food, arts & crafts, museum displays, entertainment throughout, a community singalong and a JCC membership sale. Visit jccgv.com/jcc-chanukah-carnival.
“Shabbat Saskatchewan,” by Esther Tennenhouse. Part of Otiyot (Letters), a joint exhibit with her son Joel Klassen, which is now at the Zack Gallery.
Colourful and playful, dark and ominous, Esther Tennenhouse’s artwork is engaging and thought-provoking, as she offers her take on Torah and midrash, immigration and language, orthodoxy and modernity. Otiyot (Letters), an exhibit she shares with her son Joel Klassen, opened at the Zack Gallery last week.
Tennenhouse’s sense of humour, curiosity, imagination and sincerity come through in the work on display, and in her responses to questions about the exhibit.
“Ot means ‘letter’ (of the alphabet) – it also means ‘sign’ and ‘signal,’” she told the Independent. “It was my first choice of name for the show: Ot – Starring the Letter Shin. Sounds like ‘ought,’ as in ‘thought.’ Ot was visually terse (and sounds adorable). That was why it was Ot in [the] JCC program book – I had to provide that bit before these pieces were made! Yikes! But it got changed to the longer plural in Hebrew and lost its zap. More truthful, though, as I have so many (too many) words of explanation on the wall beside each piece.”
All the works were made specifically for the exhibit, said Tennenhouse, “only for this place, for anyone who happens to walk into the JCC,” where the Zack Gallery is located.
“I was driven by my own relationship to the alef-bet: me, a quite secular, second-generation, Winnipeg-born Jew living in Vancouver, of prairie-born parents, who learned my aleph-bet as a child, quite long ago. I think many like me, with my sort of education, walk by these gallery doors, so I thought they might wander in and relate.”
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Tennenhouse went to Talmud Torah there from age 4 to 11, then to public school. She earned a bachelor’s in English and, while working at the Winnipeg Free Press, majored in sculpture at the University of Manitoba School of Art.
She moved to Aklavik, in the Inuvik region of the Northwest Territories, and then to Yellowknife, where she learned about ceramics at the Yellowknife Guild of Arts and Crafts. She later worked with translucent clays.
Moving with her family – husband Ron, son Joel and daughter Timmi – to Vancouver in 1995, Tennenhouse found a home at Or Shalom, participating in the Talmud and Torah study offered there, reengaging in Jewish education after a break of some 45 years.
Klassen also attends Or Shalom. His art background includes having drawn at home and working with painter Sylvia Oates – who he describes as a mentor – in her Parker Street studio. Klassen has had a one-man show in artist Noel Hodnett’s Parker Street studio, and he was in the Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture’s 2019 group show Nothing Without Us at the Cultch. For the past four years, he has attended the JCC’s Art Hive, which is facilitated by Kim Almond.
Klassen’s Hebrew letters and drawings are in five of the pieces at the Zack Gallery, said Tennenhouse.
“Making letters as individuals, each with their own character, was the most fun to do,” she said. “Jan Wilson, a friend and quilter, offered to help if I drew out the correctly sized letters backwards for transfer and picked the fabrics.”
The letters comprise eight of the works on display, and offer much to think – and smile – about. Klassen’s aleph is filled in with leopard print fabric, surrounded in black with a flowered border. The word “wild” comes to mind as one looks at it, not just the wildness of animals and nature, but of human beings. The piece is called “Aleph in the Garden.”
“I did not shy away from diversity,” said Tennenhouse. “It’s sort of an underlying element. I felt the show had to offer something to any individual, whatever their history with the alef-bet, and it deals with very well-trodden themes. I felt a need for an element of surprise, which is one reason why Joel’s aleph became a leopard in the garden (of Eden?).”
A last-minute addition to the depictions is one of the 12 new letters for gender-neutral word endings that were created by Israelis graphic designer Michal Shomer a few years ago.
“They appeared in welcome signs outside schools and on IDF buildings, etc., but the kabbalist idea of the power of the alphabet lives on – the new letters were vigorously rejected by religious factions,” said Tennenhouse. “‘Changing the letters removes any kedusha (sanctity) the words have or any ability the words have of channeling God’s energy into the world,’ said sofer Rabbi Abraham Itzkowitz. ‘This project essentially makes Hebrew like any other language.’ Some of the signs were taken down. Religious schools were forbidden to use them.”
That said, Tennenhouse told the Independent, “What first tickled me into this aleph-bet project was the poetry and passion of the ideas of the early mystics. They conceived of letters of the alef-bet existing even before the creation of the world – all 22 were vessels of the divine, all things were created by their combinations. Meditative/ecstatic kabbalah taught that individual letters were something to meditate upon, which led to ecstasy, one of the steps to sense of union with G-d. American calligrapher Ben Shahn, who titled one of his books Love and Joy About Letters, quotes the 13th-century Rabbi Abulafia, who said the delight in combining letters is like being carried away by notes of music.”
Tennenhouse and Klassen’s “Shir” (song, poetry, chant, in Hebrew) is truly delightful, like a page out of a children’s book. A multimedia piece, it depicts several animals and the sounds they make, both in Hebrew and in transliteration, though the giraffe just “hum[s] at night.”
Two other works are striking, both on their own and in contrast to each other: Sinai 1 and Sinai 2.
The latter features three bright yellow flowers, surrounded by green. “It is a triangle canvas which is about the mountain bursting into bloom when Moses came down with the Ten Commandments – this was a midrash from the 1500s. The triangle has flowers by Joel. I asked him to put flowers on it, envisioning little flowers here and there – he just went swoosh woosh on it.”
Sinai 2 is a vertical rectangle with whites, greys and blacks depicting a furious ball of activity on top of the mountain that includes the Hebrew letters.
“The Torah tells of fear, awe, the shaking mountain, seeing sounds, lightning, Moses’ anger, the breaking tablets,” said Tennenhouse. “Looking back, I overburdened the canvas [with] anger, though laying on the 231 Gates – a diagram from the Sefer Yetzirah which shows each letter combining with each other letter of the alef-bet – because I see the story of the giving of the Torah as a sort of creation story for our intense embrace of literacy. The diagram relates to Rabbi Abulafia’s talk of combination of letters but distracts visually from the anger/violence, [the] mountain, fear.”
There is so much more in this exhibit.
“Cursive Handwriting: Kovno Testament” is a stark, unfinished work, featuring the words, written in his own hand, of Lithuanian writer Eliezer Heiman, who died in the Kovno ghetto during the Holocaust. It was to have three more samples of cursive, said Tennenhouse. “I left room for them before I put on the image of Heiman’s tablets. Those spaces stayed empty. Everything else edited themselves out because of what happened in Israel on Oct. 7.”
There is the multimedia triptych “Shabbat Saskatchewan,” which Tennenhouse said “is me trying to use real photos and documents to create some presence of my mother’s grandparents and parents.”
“It ended up being centred on great-grandmother Esther Dudelzak Singer, Baba Faige (Fanny) Singer and my mother with her sisters,” she said. “Yiddish was their mamaloshen (mother tongue) and the Sonnenfeld community was religiously observant.”
“The Owl and the Pussy Cat” adds colour and vibrancy to Edward Lear’s black and white drawing of his nonsense poem, the Yiddish translation of which – by the late Marie B. Jaffe – fills the two side panels of this triptych. Tennenhouse couldn’t find much information out about Jaffe, she said, “But, thanks to Eddie Pauls at the Jewish Public Library in Montreal, [I] learned she immigrated to New York in 1909 from Lithuania.”
Tennenhouse began to see the owl and the cat in their boat as sailors braving the rough seas, traveling around the world to find “Di Goldene Medine,” “the Golden Land,” America.
“You might say ‘Saskatchewan,’ too, is about leaving home, traveling across seas and finding a new place but keeping your language and culture,” said Tennenhouse.
Otiyot (Letters) is on display at Zack Gallery until Nov. 12.
I spent hours online trying to find a suitable piece of art for this year’s Rosh Hashanah cover, then even more hours for what I might do myself. I really wanted to include a shofar in whatever I did, as a call to hope and action, for myself as much as anyone else.
I stumbled on artist Yitzchok Moully’s Elul Shofar Art Challenge (moullyart.com). Moully’s work is bright, colourful, full of life. As I mulled it over, I received an email from local artist Merle Linde, who generously created art for the JI ’s Passover cover this year and for last’s year Rosh Hashanah issue. She sent me an emotionally charged piece lamenting the countless trees that have been destroyed by wildfires. The base painting was an acrylic pour, and I spent several fun hours learning about and practising the technique, deciding it wasn’t quite what I wanted for my shofar blast.
I eventually came across creativejewishmom.com, the site that inspired my 2020 Passover cover depicting the Israelites (made of corks) crossing the Red Sea, who made a second appearance for Passover 2021, participating in Zoom seders. This time, it was a Tashlich picture made with yarn, coloured paper and felt marker that caught my eye on creativejewishmom.com. Inspired, I made the JI masthead out of yarn and ink, and created the shofar and the hand holding it – I wanted there to be a human presence, as we are critical to any change, for better or worse.
The middle section of the page eluded me for days, and I tried various things that just didn’t feel or look right. Thankfully, a middle-of-the-night couple of hours resulted in the finished cover, albeit with some tweaking in Photoshop. It ended up being more cheerful than I was intending. I am happily surprised at my latent optimism, and hope that readers also find it uplifting.
Esther Rausenberg, artistic and executive director of the Eastside Arts Society. (photo by Wendy D)
Eastside Arts Society (EAS) presents the return of its two-day summer art-making event, CREATE! Arts Festival, taking place at Strathcona Park on July 22 and at various Eastside Arts District studios on July 23.
A community initiative designed to welcome guests to explore, learn and create art together with local artists, CREATE! features a variety of accessible visual and performing arts workshops for adults and youth, including watercolour painting, needle felting, indigo dying, pottery, glass fusing, photography, ukulele, Salish singing and storytelling.
“In addition to a variety of art workshops, demonstrations and public participation art installations, we are also incredibly proud to introduce our brand new festival art shop, featuring a curated selection of arts and crafts all handmade by local artists,” said EAS artistic and executive director Esther Rausenberg, who is a member of the Jewish community.
On July 22, there will be a series of outdoor art-making workshops taught by more than 15 artists who live and/or work in the Eastside Arts District, many of whom will be participating in CREATE! Arts Festival for the first time. Adult and youth workshops will be hosted by Taaye Wong, Tanna Po, Suzan Marczak, Nima Nasiri, Naomi Yamamoto, Niki Holmes, Ross den Otter, Daphne Roubini, Russell Wallace, Jewish community member Naomi Steinberg, Nicole Caspillo, Nathaniel Marchand, Eri Ishii and Chantal Cardinal (FELT à la main with LOVE). A children and youth workshop will be hosted by Amberlie Perkin and an all-abilities workshop by Alternative Creations Studio.
Saturday festivities will also include a general admission CREATE! Art Zone. Art demonstrations include painting, pottery and glass beading from Francis Tiffany, Julia Chirka (summer skool) and members of Terminal City Glass Co-op. Public participation art projects include a life-size colouring mural with Serena Chu of Chu Chu, squeegee art with Joanne Probyn, and the building and performing of two giant crow puppets – in honour of EAS’s unofficial mascot – with Jacquie Rolston. Opus Art Supplies will have a hands-on block carving and printing activation: carve and pull a mini-block print, and contribute to a collaborative printmaking collage.
A selection of local handmade artworks and goods, curated by OH Studio Project, will be available at the festival shop. There will be a fully licensed beer garden, serving beer, cider and wine from Strange Fellows Brewing, as well as an assortment of food from a collection of food trucks, including Earnest Ice Cream, Wak Wak Burger, Mahshiko and Camion Café.
On July 22, the 8th Annual Art! Bike! Beer! Crawl Brewery Tour & Fundraiser will, for the first time, end at the festival grounds.
Activities will move indoors on July 23, connecting participants with art production spaces in neighbouring Eastside studios, with additional art workshops hosted by members of the Terminal City Glass Co-op, Richard Tetrault, Sonya Iwasiuk, Grace Lee (eikcam ceramics) and Naomi Yamamoto.
Workshops are $35 (plus GST) for youth/adults, with the exception of Perkin’s workshop for children/youth at $20 (plus GST); children under the age of 12 must be supervised by an adult. The general public can access festival activities at Strathcona Park for a $5 general admission fee (children under age 12 are free). For full festival details and workshop registration, visit createartsfestival.ca.
“Aqua,” by Violette Zohar Fiszbaum, who is one of the more than 50 artists participating in the Parker Art Salon exhibit at Pendulum Gallery. (photo from Violette Zohar Fiszbaum)
Pendulum Gallery in downtown Vancouver opened a new show on May 15 – What Moves You – by the Parker Art Salon. More than 50 artists, all having their studios at 1000 Parker St., presented one piece each for their annual exhibition. The art, including paintings, sculpture and photomontage, is inspiring and uplifting, brightening up the space around it.
While the exhibit is already open to visitors, the opening reception, and the launch of an online auction hosted by Waddington’s Auctions, will be held at the gallery on June 8, 6-8 p.m. Fifty percent of the auction proceeds will go to Beedie Luminaries, a scholarship program for students with potential who are facing financial adversity. To further promote the artists, there will be a Parker studios tour on June 10.
The Independent spoke with one of the Jewish artists participating in the show, Violette Zohar Fiszbaum, at Niche Art Gallery on Granville Island. She is one of Niche’s co-founders.
Fiszbaum grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “I studied art as a teenager, but my parents thought you couldn’t make a living at art – they were right, it is tough. They wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer. After I graduated from high school, I studied chemical engineering. I also wanted to study astronomy and quantum physics, but, again, it is not easy to make a living. But it never stopped me. I always did some art and I keep up my interest in quantum physics, too. I read on it even now, when I can’t sleep.”
After she finished university, she went traveling: Europe, Asia, North America. “I studied Tibetan art restoration in Paris and I visited Tibet in the 1990s. Tibetan culture is exotic, yes, but very spiritual. It brought me closer to my Judaism, my spiritual roots. I think all spiritual cultures are connected,” she said.
Fiszbaum studied kabbalah. “I grew up secular,” she said. “My parents survived the Holocaust as children, got married in Israel, and then moved to Brazil. But Judaism came from the inside of me, from my studies and my travels. Zohar is my Hebrew name, and that’s how I sign my paintings.”
She visited Israel many times during her wandering days. One of her travels brought her to Vancouver, and she liked it here so much she decided to stay. “I worked in the movie industry for a time,” she said. “I wanted to act in movies, and I did.”
She also worked a lot at her art, and she continued studying art, as well. “In the last 10 years, I have been teaching art,” she said. “I teach mixed media. In the beginning, I was an assistant at Emily Carr [University of Art + Design]. Lately, I have had my own class at Olympic Village. It is a beautiful room. It faces the water. My students are all adults, and we are having fun together.”
Fiszbaum’s artistic interests are diverse. She plays piano. She dances. She enjoys photography. But, mostly, she paints. “I often paint with some music on. I turn on the music, dance and paint,” she said.
One of her preferred techniques is mixed media. “I like my paintings to have layers, to have a mystery, an intrigue. Using mixed media is like adding an archeological layer to the image, a depth,” she explained. “For example, I saw this old poster in Israel and I incorporated parts of it in one of my abstract paintings.”
Mixed media is also the technique that allows her to be successful at Niche, although commercial art has never been her focus. “I don’t paint just to sell,” she said. “I want to leave something beautiful behind. In the last two years, I sold and donated 100 pieces.”
She sells and markets herself through several venues. “My website, of course, Parker Art Salon, the East Side Culture Crawl – that is huge in Vancouver, the biggest annual art show in town. I use Instagram. Anywhere I go, really. I play tennis and I belong to a tennis club – I sold some of my paintings there. I like swimming, and I sold many of my Swimmers series paintings through my connections with other swimmers. My painting in the Parker Art Salon exhibition is one of my swimmers. I used to be a dancer, and the human body, its movements, always have fascinated me, both in the water and on land.”
But Niche Art Gallery is one of her favourite places. “It started as a pop-up store just before the COVID pandemic,” she explained. “Pop-up is a short-term lease, and it has been popular lately.”
After her pop-up term had expired, she teamed up with a few other artists and opened the gallery. “Many galleries on Granville Island closed during the pandemic, but Niche flourished,” she said.
Besides her paintings, Fiszbaum sells some unusual pieces at Niche, including funky denim caps. Each one is decorated with an assortment of mixed media: snatches of lace, old buttons and zippers, feathers, disassembled toy fragments, even an old phone keyboard. “It is fun to work on them,” she said. “I use only salvaged materials there. Now I want to make denim jackets.”
Fiszbaum likes working on commissions. “I enjoy the challenge,” she said. “I have created paintings to customers’ demands, both in size and in the colour palette. Sometimes, they wanted my paintings to match their couches and curtains; other times, their carpets and pillows; even a vase once. And I did it.”
Among the work for sale at Niche Art Gallery are Fiszbaum’s portraits. She returns to female portraits again and again. “My mother was beautiful, like Cleopatra,” she said. “I keep painting women’s portraits in order to capture her beauty, to share it with everyone.”
The show at Pendulum Gallery runs until June 16. For more information on the artists (who include many Jewish community members) and the auction, and to book your Parker studios tour, visit parkerartsalon.com.
Olga Livshinis a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].
Wilhelm von Schadow’s “The Artist’s Children” (1830).
The German city of Düsseldorf reached an agreement recently with the heirs of Max Stern (1904-1987), a Jewish art dealer forced to flee the city in 1937, ending a long-standing battle over the ownership of a painting, according to The Art Newspaper, which first reported the deal.
The family portrait from 1830, “The Artist’s Children,” by 19th-century Romantic painter Wilhelm von Schadow, has been held by the city since 1959, when it acquired the canvas from a private collector. It was discovered when a researcher from the National Archives in Ottawa found it in a catalogue for a 1967 Düsseldorf Museum Kunstpalast exhibition, which listed the painting’s location as the Stadtmuseum. In recent years, the Max Stern Art Restitution Project, based at Montreal’s Concordia University, and the Dr. Max and Iris Stern Foundation sought to reclaim it, contending that Stern sold the painting under duress.
Founded in 2002, the Stern Project, headed by Dr. Clarence Epstein, is seeking to track down the 220 Old Masters and Northern European artworks that formed Lot 168 in the November 1937 sale at Cologne’s Mathias Lempertz auction house, known as Auktion 392. The paintings constituted the inventory of Düsseldorf’s Galerie Stern that Nazi officials forced him to liquidate at vastly discounted prices. As well as the 1937 auction canvases, the Stern Project is seeking to regain the paintings the art dealer left with Cologne shipping agent Josef Roggendorf, which the Gestapo confiscated in 1938, when Stern was already in Britain.
As part of the agreement, Düsseldorf handed over the portrait on condition that the municipality immediately buys it back. The terms of the settlement, including how much the city paid to re-acquire the artwork, were undisclosed.
In a press release, Düsseldorf mayor Stephan Keller said he was pleased with the “fair and just solution” between the parties and that von Schadow’s artwork “will remain in Düsseldorf.” He added that the painting will go on view at the city’s Museum Kunstpalast starting in August.
Stern took over Galerie Stern on Königsallee, which was founded by his father Julius, in 1934. By order of the Nazi government, the gallery was “aryanized” in 1937. Its inventory was sold at a forced auction for a fraction of its value.
Armed with a single suitcase stuffed with his remaining possessions, Stern fled to London that year. But, in May 1940, when Hitler’s invasion of Britain seemed imminent, Scotland Yard rounded up more than 2,000 German and Austrian citizens, mostly Jews, and incarcerated them as enemy aliens. Stern was sent to an internment camp on the Isle of Man.
Hearing that some detainees were being sent to Canada to free up soldiers guarding British camps, Stern volunteered to join them. In North America, he believed, he would be well-positioned to help his mother and one sister in Britain, as well as his other sister and her family in France. But Canada, where he was greeted by bayonet-wielding soldiers, was even less hospitable than Britain. As Stern recalled years later, “We had to stage a hunger strike to convince the Canadian authorities that we were certainly not Nazis but, on the contrary, anti-Nazi.”
Held in a camp first near Fredericton, N.B., and later in Farnham, Que., he was put to work cutting down trees. Still, he remained optimistic, thankful for the food, shelter, clothing, exercise and 20 cents per day in pay. He also welcomed the opportunity to teach. Twelve years earlier, he had earned a doctorate in art history, which he put to use in classes for his fellow internees.
Stern’s talent and positive outlook caught the attention of William Birks, scion of the Montreal jewelry family, who headed the local branch of the National Committee on Refugees. Birks was openly critical of Canada’s restrictive and antisemitic immigration policy, which he called “narrow, bigoted and very short-sighted.” He believed the government should have sent trade missions to Europe to recruit men like Stern, “not wait for them to seek and beg us.” In 1941, he sponsored Stern’s release and move to Montreal.
Needing a job and hoping to assist in Canada’s war effort, Stern looked for work in an airplane factory. When he was not hired, he turned to the thing he understood best – art. “You’ll starve,” people told him, but he was certain he could be successful as a dealer in Montreal, because he had spotted a void he knew how to fill. Most of the city’s galleries were pushing stuffy 19th-century European genre and landscape paintings. No one was promoting or selling home-grown works because, as he later explained, “Canada didn’t have any confidence in its own artists.”
Stern pitched his vision to Rose Millman, who had just opened a space on rue Sainte-Catherine called the Dominion Gallery of Fine Art. Impressed by his assurance and expertise, she offered him a job for $12.50 a week. Stern said he wanted $17.50 and her promise to make him a full-fledged partner once he built up her business by conquering Canada, as he put it, “by selling Canadian artists.”
Within months, he was mounting exhibitions by contemporary Canadian painters. Over the years, they would include John Lyman, Goodridge Roberts, E. J. Hughes, Stanley Cosgrove, Jean-Paul Riopelle, and others whose names he would play a pivotal role in establishing. Stern secured their loyalty and best work by offering them monthly retainers for an agreed-upon number of works, already an established practice in France, Britain and the United States, but not yet in Canada.
Stern’s first major coup came in 1944, when he visited Emily Carr, then 72, at her home in Victoria. She showed him a room packed with 300 paintings. Struck speechless by her talent, he asked if he could mount an exhibition.
Laughing, she replied, “You will not sell a single painting.” The recipient of critical praise, Carr had yet to enjoy commercial success. “If you let me choose the paintings,” Stern replied, “I think I can make it a perfect success.”
In 1947, Stern and his wife Iris became the sole owners of the gallery.
Following the defeat of Nazi Germany, Stern endeavoured to track down his confiscated paintings. His efforts were largely unsuccessful. He died childless in 1987, and left his estate to Concordia University and McGill University in Montreal, as well as Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The three schools later founded the Max Stern Art Restitution Project to reclaim the estimated 400 artworks lost during the 1930s. To date, the project has recovered 24 pieces, including paintings by Otto Erdmann, Nicolas Neufchatel and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
The case of von Schadow’s “The Artist’s Children” proved to be particularly complicated due to questions of provenance. When the city of Düsseldorf acquired the portrait in 1959, it was hung in the office of the city’s mayor. Decades later, when the Stern Foundation filed a claim for the artwork, it pointed out that, in 1937, Galerie Stern allowed for the piece to be reproduced in a book about paintings of children. But Düsseldorf city officials pushed back, arguing that the book did not prove the gallery owned the artwork at that point. There was no evidence of the painting being surrendered under Nazi persecution, the city contended.
In 2017, a scheduled exhibition in Düsseldorf about Stern and the Restitution Project was abruptly canceled due to local opposition, leading to intense controversy. The city’s stance apparently softened following the 2020 municipal elections.
“We couldn’t prove that it was not a restitution case, so we, as the city government, recommended to the assembly that it should be restituted,” Miriam Koch, the Düsseldorf city official in charge of culture, told The Art Newspaper. “The big parties in the city council supported restitution.”
According to Lynn H. Nicholas’ 1995 book The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War, more than 140,000 pieces of artwork were looted under the Nazi regime. Most of them remain unclaimed.
Gil Zohar is a writer and tour guide in Jerusalem.
The JQT (Jewish Queer Trans) Artisan Market on May 15, 6-9 p.m., at the Peretz Centre features several local artists, and international performer Stav Meishar presents Oy Slay! at 8 p.m. For more information on the market and other JQT Heritage Month events, including the launch of the B.C. JQT Oral History Project at the Zack Gallery on May 28, visit jqtvancouver.ca.
This year’s West of Main Art Walk will be event founder Pnina Granirer’s last open studio. (photo from Pnina Granirer)
In European cities such as Paris, art has been blooming for centuries and is an essential component of life and culture. Unfortunately, in the relatively young city of Vancouver, art was barely noticed in the early ’90s.
While living in Paris in 1992, I discovered an amazing number of galleries and museums and spent every free moment gorging myself on a wealth of art. One of the most exciting happenings occurred in the spring, when an unusual event burst onto the city: Le Génie de la Bastille. All around the arrondissement (neighbourhood) of the Bastille, hundreds of artists opened their studios to the public for an entire week. A large exhibition at the City Hall was launched and maps were handed out to the public, showing the location of each studio. Every day, map in hand, I would go up and down the ubiquitous five-floor buildings in the area, soaking in the opportunity of seeing the great variety of works and talking to the artists.
Too soon, I was back in Vancouver, still thinking with much pleasure about that wonderful week in Paris. Getting together with my artist friend, Anne Adams, who passed away in 2007, I described to her the exciting days spent visiting the artists’ studios in the City of Lights, when a sudden thought occurred to me. Anne, I said, what if we tried doing this here? Are any artists living in our neighbourhood, who might be interested?
Anne was as excited at the idea as I was, and we approached the now-defunct local Courier newspaper, which was very supportive and published an article with a call to artists. We did not have to wait long for the telephone to start ringing. To our delight, we discovered a good number of artists living in Point Grey, Kitsilano and Dunbar/Kerrisdale who wanted to participate.
A small group of us got together to plan the event. We needed a venue to have an opening exhibition, followed by a weekend when the artists would open their studios and their homes to the public. This had never been done before in Vancouver!
The West Point Grey Community Centre at Aberthau offered its space and the first exhibition opened in 1993. Word spread like wildfire. We were inundated with calls from artists who wanted to join. This will be too much for one weekend, I thought, let’s keep it small and limit the number of studios to no more than 20, so that everyone’s work could be seen.
I had the idea to hold the Art Walk over three weeks, one week for each neighbourhood. There was a lot of work to do, all of it voluntary. This was a time without the internet, so we used a “telephone tree” and the mail. Anne was an excellent organizer. I was quite idealistic at that time and suggested that we do not ask for any grants or taxpayers’ money, although donations from businesses and private donors were welcome. We would prove that artists had initiative and could do such an event by themselves – and it worked! We proved that artists were capable of contributing and enriching their communities by sharing their art and creativity.
We needed a name that would represent us. After sifting through many names, we decided to call ourselves Artists in our Midst, as we were all artists living in the midst of our community. By two years later, our idea had caught on and spread all over the city and the Lower Mainland, and we are all culturally richer for it.
Over the 30 years since we began, much has changed, including the name, which is now West of Main Art Walk. We are now back to only one weekend, but many new artists have joined us. Everyone is invited to visit us the last weekend in May, enjoy the art and perhaps take some home to live with.
As for myself, all of my works will be offered at 50% discount. And I will repeat last year’s idea of a fundraising sale to benefit Stand Up for Mental Health, founded by my son, David, the recipient of a Governor General Meritorious Service Medal. He teaches stand-up comedy to people with mental illness, as a way of building confidence and fighting public stigma and has been invited to work all across Canada, the United States and Australia.
This will be my last open studio and sale. Hope to see you!
West of Main Art Walk features more than 50 participating artists, including many Jewish community members, who invite visitors to their studios May 27-28, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. For the studio map and more information, visit artistsinourmidst.com.
Art House SF’s Max Khusid is one of several artists who will be at Art Vancouver May 4-7. (photo from Art House SF)
Once again, galleries and artists from across Canada and around the world will come together to exhibit their work at Art Vancouver, which takes place May 4-7 at the Vancouver Convention Centre West. At the annual fair, attendees can join the opening night party, purchase art, listen to various talks, take part in classes, and more.
Other participating Jewish community members include Max Khusid of San Francisco gallery Art House SF (arthousesf.com) and a couple of the gallery’s artists, Tavalina (Rinat Kishony) and Max Blechman, who, with husband Kazu Umeki, comprises the duo BLECHMEKI (a portmanteau of their last names).
Khusid spent the first 20 years of his professional career in the world of technology, and plans to spend the next 20 years diving into the unknown and immeasurable world of art. He is inspired by the mystic art and adventurous life journey of Russian painter, explorer, archeologist and philosopher Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947).
Tavalina lives in Israel and her work “Jerusalem” was recently featured on the cover of a book by the late Amos Oz. A graduate of the Israel Institute of Technology with a bachelor of architecture, she worked in the field for several years. After a personal crisis in her 30th year, she began to paint, devoting herself to art. At the same time, she embarked on a journey of personal discovery and traveled many places, eventually returning to Israel, where she continues painting and presenting her work, as well as teaching art.
Blechman, originally from New York, lives in San Francisco. He and Umeki use mass-produced American pottery from the 1930s to 1980s to create photo tableaux. At first glance, the individual pieces of pottery appear identical, but closer inspection reveals variations both in form and colour. Indeed, the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi (appreciating beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete in nature) reverberates throughout their pottery.
For the full list of Art Vancouver artists and classes, as well as tickets for the fair, visit artvancouver.net.
I’ve always thought of the Nordic region as peaceful. Admittedly, my knowledge of the area is largely limited to Risk, the board game, where Greenland, Iceland and the Scandinavian countries are considered a haven, free of imminent attack from the throw of a dice.
Well, Finland just purchased Israel’s David’s Sling defensive system. For $345 million US. It was one of Finland’s first moves after recently being accepted into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And it was the first sale abroad for David’s Sling, an integrated part of Israel’s multi-tier missile defence system. Israel now carries the title of major supplier to NATO.
I guess the world’s a bit more complicated than Risk.
So long, Noa Tishby, the Israeli performer appointed by our previous prime minister, Yari Lapid, to advocate for Israel through her strong social media presence. With the formal and former title of special envoy for combating antisemitism and delegitimization of Israel – fit that onto a business card! – she was known for sparring with BDS advocate Bella Hadid and others. Tishby was also a vocal supporter of Israel’s anti-judicial reform movement. Giving voice to the many thousands protesting the current government and its extreme shift rightward and into sometimes theocratic territory, Tishby says this was the reason for her dismissal. Well, ya. As the hawkish Jerusalem Post editorialist Ruthi Blum noted, “Tisbhy is free to share [her opinion]. But she shouldn’t have expected the government she’s been bashing to keep her as a representative.” Well, no. But keep on truckin’ Noa Tishby.
BTW, Tishby will be a guest at the JNF Negev event in Vancouver on June 29.
Israel’s Tel Aviv Museum of Art is again among the world’s 100 most visited museums. This according to international art magazine The Art Newspaper. TAMA was ranked 49th in 2022, a jump from its 56th place the year prior. I am fortunate to be one of those visitors, on multiple occasions, over the past many years, often dragging my two children there when they were younger – how fun was that!
Paris’s Louvre and the Vatican Museum took first and second place, respectively. Canada was represented with a 60th place win by Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum.
Congratulations Milk & Honey, Israel’s preeminent whisky distiller, awarded the 2023 world’s best single malt whisky by the World Drink’s Awards for its Elements, Sherry Cask drink. Described as “[f]ruity aromas of citrus zest and white peach with a dash of wood varnish. Sweet to the taste … with flavours of golden syrup, vanilla, tropical fruit and iced tea.…” Sounds like a palate pleaser to me. But, if I had to choose, my favourite would be Seagram’s Five Star rye whisky. Not so much for its taste but for fond memories of fighting with my siblings for the silver sheriff’s star glued to the bottles.
Jerusalem was selected by Time magazine as one of the world’s 2023 top 50 destinations, holding the 48th spot. It’s one of my favourite places to visit on a bustling Friday, starting with a walk through the overcrowded neighbourhood of Mea She’arim and enjoying a freshly baked challah. Then, bargaining my way through the Old City’s Arab Market, its tastes, smells and sights, and eventually making my way to the Western Wall, with the golden Dome of the Rock overhead. Ending with lunch at Machane Yehuda, the popular central Jerusalem food market, which has the freshest of meats and vegetables, and many colourful stalls.
Not to be outdone, Canada held two spots. Churchill was third – can’t beat those Northern Light spectaculars. Vancouver was 38th, for its eclectic cuisine and the beautiful Stanley Park.
For sure, difficult days in Israel. Sociopolitical cultures are clashing internally. External enemies are looking on with glee, and testing us. But we’re not sinking into despair. Israel has experienced difficult times before and emerged stronger and wiser. So it will be this time.
Arguably, we are being governed by the worst government in our short history – for many reasons, including recent security challenges. I mean, come on, with someone as inexperienced and reactionary as Itamar Ben-Gvir as national internal security minister. Or Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich spouting off on things about which he should know better and doesn’t. But let’s not blame the victims for the terror and rockets. Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, an inept Palestinian leadership with a hateful street – they are to blame, not the government.
Usually, it’s the right-wing governments that muster support for the very difficult realpolitik choices, from Menachem Begin’s 1982 Sinai exit to Ariel Sharon’s 2005 Gaza disengagement. Even Binyamin Netanyahu’s 2021 peace deals with several Arab countries under the Abraham Accords. Unfortunately, Netanyahu’s current government may be too inexperienced and messianic to enable reasonable, democratic, liberal change – read judicial reform – at such a scale. But who knows.
We cannot despair. At a very esoteric level, Israelis have hope. In fact, hope is the theme of our national anthem, Hatikvah, The Hope.
According to the World Happiness Report, published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Israel remains one of the happiest countries in the world. (See jewishindependent.ca/measuring-happiness.) Rising to fourth place in 2023, just behind Finland, Denmark and Iceland, Israel’s showing likely reflected its reputation as a “villa in the jungle,” as dubbed by former prime minister Ehud Barak – despite being in the Middle East, one of the most contentious spots … on the Risk board.
Bruce Brownis a Canadian and an Israeli. He made aliyah … a long time ago. He works in Israel’s high-tech sector by day and, in spurts, is a somewhat inspired writer by night. Brown is the winner of the 2019 AJPA Rockower Award for excellence in writing, and wrote the 1998 satire An Israeli is…. Brown reflects on life in Israel – political, social, economic and personal.