Jewish Pittsburgh artists attracting international attention
There is some pretty great art coming out of Jewish Pittsburgh these days. And the world is beginning to take notice.
While the canvases of mixed-medium artist Zivi Aviraz are being exhibited at prestigious venues in New York and Florida, printmaker Leslie Golomb, who recently returned to Pittsburgh following a two-month artist-in-residence stint in China, has been asked to bring her art to Japan.
Aviraz’s colorful paintings are currently displayed at the Palm Beach State College Eissey Campus Theatre in Palm Beach Gardens. The show will move to the Agora Gallery in Chelsea, N.Y., June 12, and will run there until July 3.
“It’s very exciting,” said Aviraz, who was born in Israel. “New York found me on the Internet a year ago. My website had only been up two years. They (Agora Gallery) will be my exclusive representative in New York for a year.”
Aviraz contacted the gallery in Palm Beach at the urging of her art teacher, Lila Hirsch Brody, with whom she began training 34 years ago. Painting professionally for about 10 years now, Aviraz has “shown all over town,” including solo shows at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh in both Squirrel Hill and the South Hills. Some of her work is displayed at area hospitals, and at Community Day School.
Now her work — which through the vivid use of color and texture integrates recycled materials into depictions of figures, flowers and cityscapes — is gaining attention of exhibitors all over the world. A gallery in London recently asked her to submit two pieces to a juried show, and she was asked to submit work to a program in Berlin. Other inquiries for shows have come from San Francisco, Ohio and additional venues in New York.
“My exposure has become huge,” she said. “It’s just because of my website. Every day I’m hearing from somebody else. This is the power of the computer.”
Like Aviraz, Golomb’s work is becoming internationally recognized.
Golomb returned from southern China in January, after working as an artist-in-residence there for two months. Last year, she was 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 residency was part of that prize.
She was the only American to win out of more than 2,800 entries from 70 different counties.
Golomb lived in an ancient, restored artist’s village, working on prints reflecting the spiritual connection between women and language. She spoke on “Women’s Language: The Distinctive Voice of Global Sisterhood,” Wednesday, May 16, at Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Congregation.
“It was life-transforming,” said Golomb of her experiences in China. “I was living in an artist village with other Chinese artists. The people were the nicest, kindest, most beautiful, spiritual people I have ever met.
“I had so much respect from the visitors that came [to the artists’ village] for visits,” she said. “Art is just part of their souls and their daily lives. I never felt so validated as an artist, or as a person, ever. That will stay with me forever.”
The prints Golomb created while in China stayed true to what her subject matter has been all along, she said: discovering women’s voices.
Before Golomb left for China, she researched nushu, a written and oral language invented by Chinese women to express their inner and outer lives. She worked with a photo of a Chinese woman who died a couple years ago, and had some of that woman’s writings translated. Those writings were “letters of lament and condolences” that the woman had sent to her “sworn sister” — a close friend — about the sadness associated with giving up one’s identity upon marriage.
Golomb is now invited to do a show in Tokyo at the Japanese Print Association in celebration of its 100th anniversary. The prints she did in China will be shown in Japan, she said.
“Each member [of the Japanese association] is nominated, and paired with an international artist,” Golomb said. “I’m being paired with a young Japanese artist. The show is in October. It’s just unbelievable.”
Golomb said that she knows her experiences in China will color her work in the future.
“Artists go on residencies all the time,” she said. “But this was significant because I was privy to a closed, cryptic world. I was living in this backwater village. I did a lot of listening.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.)