FOR EXAMPLE, ONE OF MY NEWEST PIECES IS “WISDOM CRIES OUT IN THE STREETS.” I CREATED IT A FEW WEEKS AGO WHEN groups of mothers demonstrated IN PORTLAND against racial inequality and police misconduct.
THIS PAPERCUT IS INSPIRED BY MOTHERS AND WOMEN WHO DEMAND JUSTICE, AND BY THE WORDS OF PROVERBS 1:20, AND HAS THE STREETS OF PORTLAND AS ITS BACKGROUND.
As the papercut evolves, my ideas about what it means change. Decisions I make while I sketch might change while I cut, and I often find myself layering one comic fragment over another.
I love playing with narratives. I am actually applying the midrashic approach of filling in gaps, of decoding hidden meaning, of “the story about the story.”
I’ve been exploring the ideas of protection and safety, looking to Jewish texts that address uncertainty and tragedy.
I started work on a series of golems and other mystical creatures in March as the pandemic lockdown took hold – thinking about the golem as an external source of protection, but one that we create; a way for us to protect ourselves and those we love through the work of our hands.
Untitled (Martin Manhunter Golem) - cut-up comics,12” x 12”
SOME OF MY GOLEMS ARE RESPONSES TO PARTICULAR MOMENTS IN TIME OR IDEAS — THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, THE DESTRUCTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT, THE UNAPOLOGETIC KILLING OF UNARMED BLACK MEN BY POLICE WITHOUT CONSEQUENCE.
some are positive affirmations of the strength we can find and create for ourselves, exemplified by Black Lives Matter, by doctors and nurses treating the sick, by marching in the streets to demand justice.
Untitled (Ragman Golem) - cut-up comics, 12” x 12”
EACH OF MY GOLEMS IS MADE WITH CUT-UP COMICS FEATURING SUPERHEROES WHO EXEMPLIFY THE BEST TRAITS OF HUMANITY, IN MY HOPE THAT WE CAN FIND INSPIRATION IN THESE WOMEN AND MEN OF ALL COLORS AND BACKGROUNDS: BLACK LIGHTNING, BATWOMAN, FIRESTORM, CAPTAIN MARVEL, THE THING, STORM, AND SO MANY MORE.
Untitled (Wonder Woman Golem) - cut-up comics, 12” x 12”
MY WIFE IS A RABBI IN THE REFORM MOVEMENT. UP UNTIL LOCKDOWN SHE AND I HAVE BEEN TRAVELING THE WORLD TEACHING ABOUT THE INTERSECTION OF JEWISH TEXT AND POP CULTURE, AND IN PARTICULAR THE POWER OF MIDRASH AND COMIC BOOKS TO EXPLORE AND AMPLIFY PERSONAL NARRATIVES.
IT’S BEEN SUCH A PLEASURE TO BRING WHAT WE CALL “PAPER MIDRASH” TO COMMUNITIES FROM NEW YORK TO LONDON, FROM SAN ANTONIO TO CLEVELAND.
Isaac & Rabbi Shawna Brynjegard-Bialik
Since we can’t travel right now, we had to rethink our usual artist-and-rabbi conversations and come up with new ways to engage online including creating virtual studio tours and even hands-on workshops.
Leading a “Paper Midrash” workshop at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles
It’s been challenging to make sure we live up to our goal of driving authentic text study through art – but we’re learning with every session we offer, and we plan to continue to see how we can share our love of Judaism and comics with the world, online for now and in person again once we can do so safely.
With “Paper Midrash” workshop participants from Foundation for Jewish Camp in New York City
All images are courtesy of the artist.