All Around The House

Throughout more than three centuries of immigration to the United States, the Jewish population has restructured itself according to religious, political, economic, and social necessity. American Jews have developed distinct, subcultural communities which often express divergent interpretations of fundamental Judaism, while at the same time, negotiating the American mainstream.

The underlying beliefs which guide Jewish congregations come from a diverse text of commentaries and interpretations which dictate different performative and communal behaviors. Isolationists contrast greatly with assimilation-minded progressives. Various “Conservative” congregations can resemble either the “Orthodox” or “Reform”. All subsects, however, yield to a set of common beliefs, rites, and language, even as they separate into discrete groups.

From its inception, this photographic project was a generalist proposition, deliberately portraying complex demonstrations of traditional, Jewish values as they filtered though the screen of American culture. My critique involves the construction of images which utilize a color-narrative interpretation of personal, idiosyncratic responses within communal events and rituals. While environmental factors have often influenced my previous work, I find that these present photographs pay more attention to the subtleties of gestural and emotional interplay. Resonance and ambiguity are embedded in the very nature of contemporary Jewish practice, therefore this project has demanded an awareness of the subtexts and motivations at play during these performative acts.

I also recognize this work as a profoundly personal critique. In many ways my own life has been indicative of many second-generation American Jews. I have had to negotiate dilemmas that underscore the discrepancies between Jewish and non-Jewish life. There have always been at least two worlds to consider and at least two viewpoints by which to consider them. Growing up in this way has given me an intrinsically humanist perspective from which to evaluate my surroundings, and has most certainly helped to inform this current body of work.

70 prints from this project were exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1998. The exhibit has traveled to the St. Louis Art Museum, The Comunita Ebraica Salle Servi, Florence, Italy and other venues internationally. This show is accompanied by a color, exhibition catalogue of 66 images.