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STUDIO STORIES 2020

STUDIO STORIES 2020 is a collection of short interviews with artists who have been making contemporary work during the Covid 19 pandemic. It introduces readers to the ways in which artists continue to create and adapt their practice today.

CURATED BY LILACH SCHRAG

ABOUT STUDIO STORIES 2020 - As the global health pandemic changed artists' lives and practice, Chicago-based artist Lilach Schrag found herself drawn to stories of how artists were adapting to lockdown and the new reality. The result is Lilach's curated presentation "Studio Stories 2020", hosted by Kol HaOt. "When I realized it would be impossible to have my scheduled June residency at Kol HaOt's gallery in Jerusalem, I reached out instead to colleagues and friends around the world who make contemporary art and started collecting their stories. I asked them to provide a glimpse into their mission, their methods, and their hearts. They spoke about their work, altered daily routines, challenging moments, uplifting realizations, and the ways in which they continue to create and adjust their practice during the pandemic. Individually, from their homes and their studios, they tell fascinating stories with thoughtful words and beautiful artwork. Collectively, they offer a snapshot of artists responding to the unprecedented reality of our time.” – Lilach Schrag, 2020

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Lynne Avadenka

LYNNE AVADENKA IS AN AMERICAN ARTIST/PRINTMAKER KNOWN FOR HER EXPLORATION OF TEXT AND IMAGE, THE PHYSICAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL IDEA OF THE BOOK, AND THE MYSTERY AND BEAUTY OF VISUAL LANGUAGE. SHE IS AN ACTIVE AND INVOLVED MEMBER OF THE DETROIT ARTS COMMUNITY, AND RESIDENCIES, TEACHING, AND EXHIBITING OPPORTUNITIES HAVE TAKEN HER TO GERMANY, ISRAEL, ITALY, AND STATES ACROSS THE US.

When the state of Michigan first issued its shut down during the pandemic, I understood the gravity and necessity of such a decision, but thought that it would also be resolved in a timely manner, and we would be assisted at the federal level in some scientific, thoughtful, organized way.I could not have imagined where we are now.

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I WAS INTRODUCED TO LETTERPRESS PRINTING AND ARTIST’S BOOKS WHILE STUDYING PRINTMAKING IN GRADUATE SCHOOL.

WORKING IN MULTIPLES, COMBINING WORD AND IMAGE, AND INVESTIGATING THE BOOK FORMAT SET THE COURSE FOR MY WORK UNTIL NOW.

AS A FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER, I CREATED COMMISSIONED KETUBOT. I REALIZED THAT A DECORATED KETUBAH COMBINES WORD AND IMAGE TO CREATE A SINGLE VISUAL STATEMENT CONNECTING MY “JEWISH” ART WITH MY “FINE” ART THAT WAS NON-OBJECTIVE AT THAT TIME.

BY THE END OF GRAD SCHOOL I WAS CREATING ART INFORMED BY MY JEWISH IDENTITY AND JEWISH CULTURE. I HAVE ALWAYS BELIEVED THAT WORKING FROM A SPECIFIC THAT BECOMES UNIVERSAL IS A LEGITIMATE STARTING PLACE FOR ARTISTIC INVESTIGATION.

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Empty Cities, a mixed media installation, was the centerpiece of my 2019 solo show at K. Oss Contemporary in Detroit, Michigan. The title references a verse in the Book of Lamentations: “How she sits alone, the city once great with people.”

Empty Cities (installation view and detail) - mixed media collages mounted on laser cut fiberboard

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THE PIECE ITSELF IS COMPOSED OF FIVE SEPARATE MIXED MEDIA COLLAGES MOUNTED ON LASER-CUT FIBERBOARD, AND EVOKES CITY SKYLINES, OR CHARTS OR WATER LINES, OR SOUND WAVES, OR A SCROLL/BOOK UNFURLED.
Empty Cities (installation view and detail) - mixed media collages mounted on laser cut fiberboard
The ovals are elements that I have used in my work beginning with a series I created after September 11: they represent emptiness and suggest the idea that each life lost is an entire galaxy, and that our lives overlap and connect with others.

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Land - letterpress printing, collage, laser cut fiberboard
Several pieces in this series (Land, Sea, Sea I, Sea II, Sea III) have a book title or sentence relating to climate change embedded in them.
clockwise from top left: Sea II; Sea III; Sea; Sea I - letterpress printing, collage, laser cut fiberboard

WHAT HAS ALWAYS PUZZLED ME IS THE QUESTION OF THE AUDIENCE FOR THIS WORK:

WHO DO WE THINK WE ARE MAKING OUR ART FOR?

AND WHY IS ART INSPIRED BY JEWISH SUBJECT MATTER MOST OFTEN RELEGATED TO JEWISH EXHIBITION VENUES?

I’m not very spontaneous in my work….until I am! It will happen that I believe I am headed into a planned direction to do a specific thing, and find myself headed in a totally different direction with the art that I eventually create.
Several years ago, I was invited to contribute to an anthology of essays about the Book of Exodus.
Bomberg Variations III - letterpress from wood and metal type
THE VERSE THAT STARTED THAT BODY OF WORK WAS EXODUS 17:14: “AND G-D SAID TO MOSES “WRITE THIS AS A MEMORIAL IN A BOOK.”
WHAT WAS INTERESTING TO ME IS THAT THIS FIRST MENTION OF WRITING A MEMORY DOWN, OF RECORDING IT IN A “BOOK,” SOMETIMES TRANSLATED AS SCROLL.
I LAID OUT A BIG SCROLL OF MY OWN IN MY STUDIO AND STARTED TO BUILD A TIMELINE OF JEWISH WRITING, RECORDING, AND PRINTING IN PREPARATION FOR MY ESSAY....AND GOT STUCK IN VENICE IN THE 1500S.
Bomberg Variations I - letterpress from wood and metal type
I haven’t yet written the essay, but I did create a series of mixed media collages from printed ephemera, focused on reading, whether one understands the “language” or not.
Bomberg Variations IX - letterpress from wood and metal type
THE BOMBERG VARIATIONS SERIES is inspired by the iconic innovative layout of Talmud pages by Venetian printer Daniel Bomberg who was a Christian printer of the Renaissance.
Bomberg Variations VIII - letterpress from wood and metal type
Bomberg’s Venetian printshop worked with Jewish colleagues to produce the first edition of the Talmud while setting the aesthetic and technical bar impossibly high.
Studying the history of Hebrew printing it seemed to me that every article included a small paragraph about the contributions of Jewish women to early Hebrew printing. As a Jewish woman printer I feel an affinity for these women, and this has led me to my ongoing project in the subject.

LIKE EVERYONE ON THE PLANET, I’VE BEEN PULLED IN MANY DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS DURING THE PANDEMIC: WORRYING ABOUT A PARENT WHO CONTRACTED (AND SURVIVED) THE VIRUS, CONTINUING MY JOB RUNNING AN ARTS NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION, AND TRYING TO MAINTAIN SOME KIND OF PRODUCTIVITY IN MY OWN STUDIO PRACTICE.

MY STUDIO HAS BECOME A REFUGE. I’VE BEEN FOCUSED ON TWO PROJECTS:

Q4 (left) and Q3 (above) - letterpress from wood type

ONE IS A LONG OVERDUE ARTIST’S BOOK PROJECT, BASED ON A NOTED NOVELIST’S SHORT STORY. HAVING THIS TIME TO GET BACK TO THAT PROJECT HAS ALLOWED ME TO MAKE REAL PROGRESS.

THE OTHER PROJECT IS MY ONGOING INVESTIGATION INTO JEWISH WOMEN’S ROLES IN EARLY HEBREW PRINTING. I WILL MOST LIKELY SHOW IT IN 2022, SO HAVING THIS TIME TO THINK AND PLAN IS A GIFT.

Q1 (left) and Q2 (above) - letterpress from wood type

I HAVE SOME WONDERFUL HEBREW WOOD TYPE AND I’VE BEEN DOING SOME EXPERIMENTAL PRINTING, ALONG WITH RESEARCHING THE HISTORY OF HEBREW PRINTING, THINKING ABOUT THE FORM AND CONTENT OF THE FINAL PROJECT.

I RECENTLY PURCHASED SOME PRINTING EQUIPMENT THAT ALLOWS ME TO SET TYPE IN A CIRCLE SO I HAVE BEEN EXPERIMENTING WITH MY HEBREW TYPE.

From left: Time - finished work (verse from Kohelet,) letterpress from wood and metal type: Time - set-up on the press bed for a red run; Time - set-up on the press bed for a black run
When the Pandemic started spreading, I could not have imagined where we are now, but having this time to think and plan turned into a gift.
Created By
Lilach Schrag
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Credits:

All photos courtesy of the artist