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Folktales Retold at the Contemporary Jewish Museum Will Blow Your Mind

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blame/thirst by Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor

Classic Jewish folk tales are now on display at Contemporary Jewish Museum are new works created by 16 artists. In Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid  (storyteller), the artists perused the 2009 book Leaves from the Garden of Eden: One Hundred Classic Jewish Tales by Howard Schwartz and chose a tale from which to create a piece, or multiple pieces. Those pieces can be seen at the CJM through January 28, 2018.

Some of the works are traditional art pieces, such as M. Louise Stanley’s canvas Casting Call For Cautionary Tales,  a painting set in a theater in which actors are auditioning for a role in a production of one of Judaism’s most famous tales, The GolemThe low key coloring on Stanley’s canvas is a beautiful evocation of the Jewish towns and neighborhoods which dotted Eastern Europe over a century ago.

Casting Call For Cautionary Tales by M. Louise Stanley

The Golem also features in Dina Goldstein’s Golem, in which a Jewish man in an old shop is creating a Golem for the 21st century tech age.

Other pieces are more abstract, such as Mike Rothfield’s Is It Tomorrow We Bury Here Today, a series of large, circular pieces which viewers can walk through–they might make some museum attendees feels as though they’re travelling through to another dimension. Is Rothfield taking us on a trip through time, back to Eastern Europe?

Is It Tomorrow We Bury Here Today by Mike Rothfield

One of the most hypnotic pieces is The Woulds by Andy Diaz Hope and Laurel Ruth Hope. Set in a dark purple light, The Woulds features dangling crystals, birds and silver trees. Is this another attempt by the artists to take the audience on a journey into the past, this time to the forests which surrounded those long ago Jewish villages?

The Woulds by Andy Diaz Hope and Laurel Ruth Hope

Perhaps the most amusing piece in Jewish Folktales Retold is Goatscapes, an 11 minute video by Chris Sollars. Sollars places an adorable little goat in one of San Francisco’s outlying neighborhoods–it appears to be around or near Potrero Hill–and follows the critter around as it peacefully grazes upon grass.

Dozens of profoundly beautiful pieces are available for your inspection in Jewish Folktales Retold. Unfortunately, not all the pieces identify themselves according to the tale which inspired them. No worries–Howard Schwartz’ Leaves from the Garden of Eden is available for purchase in the CJM gift shop and can also be perused as part of the exhibition. See the artist’s work–match it up with the tale in the book.

Jewish Folktales Retold also includes a number of listening stations in which the tales are read by contemporary storytellers. It all adds up to an unusual and most fascinating afternoon at Contemporary Jewish Museum.

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David-Elijah Nahmod

David-Elijah Nahmod

I, David-Elijah Nahmod am a Queer, American/Israeli dual national of Syrian descent who has lived in New York City and Tel Aviv.
Currently in San Francisco, my eclectic writing career includes LGBT publications (news and entertainment) and monster magazines. In 2012 I was voted Film Reviewer of the Year at the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Film Awards.
Look for me in Bay Area Reporter,, South Florida Gay News, Echo Magazine, Outfront, Scary Monsters Magazine, Videoscope, and, of course, Broke Ass Stuart, (I'm so broke it's SCARY!)
Now, let's watch a horror movie!