East meets West
Leslie Golomb never wins anything, not even a Bingo game.
But it seems the Jewish Pittsburgh artist’s fortune has changed — and in a big way.
Golomb will embark next week for an all-expense paid trip to China, as one of 15 winners of the 2011 International Print Biennial, sponsored by the Chinese Artists Association, Shenzhen Federation of Literary Art Circles and Baoan District People’s Government of Shenzhen.
The award is called the Guanlan International Prize, and Golomb is the only American to win out of more than 2,800 entries from 70 different counties.
In addition to a grant of prize money, Golomb has been invited to come to China to receive the award. More importantly, she says, she will return again to China later this year to work as an artist-in-residence for up to three months.
Golomb has been making art for years, showing her works at the Hebrew Union Museum in New York, as well as at several universities, including the University of Richmond and the University of Rochester. She has been recognized by the National Endowment of the Arts, as well as the PA Council on the Arts.
But the Guanlan International Prize is in a league of its own.
“It costs money to make art and to be in the business of art,” she said. “As an artist, you get recognition in publicity, or a little prize money, but nothing of this magnitude.”
Golomb’s winning piece is a photogravure original print called “Aza Sheyn Meydll,” Yiddish for “such a pretty girl.” It depicts a young woman with braids tied on top of her head.
“There are many references that when a Jewish woman gets married, and covers her hair, that her braid metaphorically becomes the challah,” she said. “This ties into my ongoing study of Jewish women and prayer can be interpreted on many levels.”
Golomb chose to enter “Aza Sheyn Meydll” in the competition because she thought its spiritual bent would complement the nature of much of Chinese art, yet its Jewish theme would make it unique.
“I do work with a spiritual nature,” she said. “I chose to do something on Jewish identity. When you enter a competition, and they are looking at 3,000 works, something has to make you stand apart.”
While working as an artist-in-residence in China later this year, Golomb plans to do something “that is a blending of Chinese culture and Jewish culture in some way,” she said, “something blending my experience there with my experience here.”
While working in China, Golomb will be housed in a studio in an ancient, restored, rural artist village located near the busy industrial area of Shenzhen.
“The whole village is devoted to print-making,” Golomb said.
While there, a master printer will be assigned to help her do the printing of her works.
“The idea that I will have a master printer is unbelievable,” said Golomb, who is used to doing all the heavy lifting herself in her studio on the North Side.
“I’ll produce all the art and make my own plates. But each plate is hand-wiped, and it can take an hour to wipe a plate,” she said. “The master printer will be doing that for me. The prints have to be perfect. I will make 20 or 30 of each. Each one is exactly the same. It’s very hard to do because it is a hand process.”
Golomb will return to Pittsburgh with about 25 prints, leaving five behind in China, to be shown at various prestigious venues there, she said.
Following her artist-in-residency, Golomb plans to show her new work at her alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University, at its Gates/Hillman Center.
The organizers of the competition are particularly excited to host an American artist, Golomb said.
“They have made a point in telling me that it is a special honor to have an artist from the United States,” she said, “and will raise our flag when I stand up to accept my award.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.)