National art exhibit explores endurance of women


A drop of water falls onto a rock, followed by another and another, until eventually - many years later - this unremitting flow bores a hole through the rock. Such was the inspiration for the Jewish Women Artists Network’s 2009 National Juried Exhibition “Like Water on Rock,” which is showing through Oct. 30, at Gotthelf Art Gallery at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center.

“ ‘Like Water on Rock’ was chosen as the 2009 exhibit theme during a discussion among JWAN artists,” exhibit co-chair Simone Soltan said. “This discussion gave rise to thoughts about how we view ourselves as artists, women and activists, and how our work comments on personal, community and global changes and challenges.”

JWAN is a special interest group within the Women’s Caucus for Art, a national organization comprised of artists, art historians, students, educators and museum professionals. JWAN seeks to build Jewish learning and outreach, strengthen Jewish values and identity and provide opportunities for Jewish women to exhibit their work.

“JWAN provides a community that spans a wide range of age, geography, distance, background, education and religious affiliation, and offers the possibility to engage and respond to a question or thought as it promotes conversation and dialogue,” exhibit co-chairwoman Fay Grajower said.

In all, 257 pieces of art from JWAN artists across the country were submitted for “Like Water on Rock.” Dr. Barbara Gilbert, Senior Curator Emerita of The Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, selected 30 to be in the exhibit.

“We wanted to showcase diversity of thought, media and visual interpretation with a common and universal framework starting with a Jewish concept that speaks to all,” Grajower said.

The juried exhibit features many forms of art, including photography, poetry, mixed media, video and oil on canvas.

Each piece explores how the themes of patience, optimism and fortitude - as represented by drops of water eroding a rock - manifest for women in today’s society.

While the exhibit’s theme has sources in Judaic teachings, the resulting art speaks to all women, regardless of faith.

“The subjects and concerns [of the exhibit] reflect those of all women: home, family, emotions, memories, a desire for love and peace,” Soltan said.

Gilbert agrees. “Beginning in the 1960s when artists in great numbers began to explore the potential of their Jewish heritage, most efforts were identity-based,” she said. “ ‘Like Water on Rock’ provides an opportunity for artists to transcend this earlier approach, challenging them to think expansively and take ideas and values inherent to Jewish tradition, adapting them to concerns of larger society.”

“Like Water on Rock” will have a free opening-night reception, with several of the artists in attendance, at 7:30 p.m. tonight.

Gotthelf Art Gallery

4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla

(858) 457-3030

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Friday