Watching artists work

  • Article by: JOY E. PETERSEN , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 16, 2010 - 5:37 PM

Artists offer a glimpse at how they work as part of an exhibit at the Sabes Jewish Community Center in St. Louis Park.

Jay Isenberg worked with a reclaimed wood plank bearing routered sacred Jewish historical images for the “10 Artists” exhibit.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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A whirring, threadless sewing machine dotted trails across black paper as artist Rachel Breen worked in a temporary artist's studio at the Sabes Jewish Community Center.

School children and elderly visitors converged with a clash of noise just outside in the lobby of the center. Doors remained open, welcoming curious onlookers into the white space, as Breen, an art professor at Anoka Ramsey Community College, stayed focused on her work.

Breen and nine other artists are participating in the center's "10 Artists in 30 Days" exhibit, which is bringing together 10 Jewish artists from the Twin Cities area to collaborate for an exhibit on one theme: "Sacred Spaces."

The exhibit allows visitors to watch and ask questions of the artists as they work in the gallery. Each of the artists is scheduled to spend two days of studio time at the center this month.

Then their work, which they may finish in their own studios, will be on display at the center during December. The exhibit will feature pieces in several mediums, including graphic arts, textiles, architecture and sculpture.

As an artist, Breen hopes that her work prompts critical thinking. She is creating holes with a machine that typically brings together pieces of fabric. Through the fissures she's creating -- held together by mere threads of paper -- a copper backing will peak through, juxtaposing the soft paper against a hard, cold metal surface. Breen asks, "How far can things go before they fall apart?" She hopes viewers will see the artwork as a metaphor for social justice.

As for the theme, Breen said the sacred can be found in the mundane. The dot-sized holes in the paper caused by a small needle can be seen as boring, like daily tasks and routines in life. But in those moments, Breen said, she finds holiness in the ordinary.

Continuous change

A few days before Breen took over the studio space to work quietly, Beth Barron was there creating a drawing to some lively drumming by percussionist Marc Anderson.

The atmosphere is continuously changing as the different artists come through.

The center's director of visual arts, Robyn Awend, said the gallery was moved from upstairs to the center's main floor downstairs 10 years ago when the center went through some remodeling. Now, she said, visitors are greeted by the art on display whenever they walk through the main corridors.

The main hallway to the health club, school and theater is now home to the gallery. Awend said many of the exhibits are sensitive to the different Jewish values of the community, and most are age appropriate.

On a few rare occasions, some exhibits require curtains to separate the gallery's art from patrons. "10 Artists in 30 Days" has the opposite intent.

For each of the artists, "Sacred Spaces" means something different, which Awend believes will bring an "organic cohesion" to the exhibit.

Among the other artists who described in advance what they plan to create in the way of sacred art:

• Jay Isenberg, a Twin Cities architect, planned a work involving "reclaimed timber, bench, wall, text and an invitation to sit where memory might emerge."

• David Feinberg, a painter and art professor at the University of Minnesota, planned to work in "collage/paint wall construction."

• Liba Zweigbaum planned to explore "how her growing family and Jewish values form a sacred space that envelope her each day."

Other artists participating are Joel Carter, Toni Dachis, Marty Harris, Joyce Lyon and Avigail Manneberg.

Joy E. Petersen is a Minneapolis freelance writer.

  • IF YOU GO...

    Where: The Tychman Shapiro Gallery at Sabes Jewish Community Center, 4330 Cedar Lake Road S., St. Louis Park.

    What: "10 Artists in 30 Days" -- 10 artists taking turns working at the galley on pieces with the theme, "Sacred Spaces." They will show their resulting work throughout December.

    Schedules: Each artist will work at the gallery for two days; see sabesjcc.org/documents/10artists-calendar.pdf , which includes a calendar listing the artists' schedules and a second page with descriptions of each artist's background.

    The exhibit: Opens Dec. 5 with an artist reception from 2-4 p.m., and continues through the month.

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