Three Jewish women showcased at Westmoreland art exhibit
Three Jewish artists are being featured at a “pop-up” show at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg. The show opens Wednesday, March 6, and runs through Sunday, March 31.
Ruth Levine, who died in 2010, Anita Kushner, who died in 2011, and Kushner’s daughter, Paula Weiner, were the artists chosen for this show, which helps to commemorate Women’s History Month, according to Barbara Jones, chief curator at the Westmoreland Museum.
“We came up with the idea for these pop-up shows, and we had a good response,” Jones said. “Paula [Weiner] had submitted for her mom, and then submitted for herself, and we thought it would be nice to show mother and daughter.”
Levine’s work was chosen to be featured as well, said Jones, because she was a contemporary of Kushner’s.
“We thought it would be nice to pair some artists that wouldn’t necessarily be paired,” she said.
Kushner was a painter who worked mainly on canvas, in watercolors and with printmaking, with an emphasis on woodcuts. She had over 30 solo shows in museums and galleries in the United States, Canada, Europe and Israel, including at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Guggenheim. Kushner lived in Israel for many years, and was the only artist whose work was displayed at the home of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin during the historic signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979, according to Weiner.
While installing her mother’s work alongside her own at the museum earlier this week, Weiner, who lives in Pittsburgh, reflected on the influence Kushner had on her own work, which she has been showing for the last eight or nine years.
“I was raised in an artistic household by a woman who was extremely professional,” she said. “She didn’t hold back. One of the things I miss most about my mom is that we had such great conversations about art. She was brutally honest.”
Weiner has shown her work at several venues, including the Hoyt Institute for Fine Art, the Andy Warhol Museum and the Monmouth Museum.
“I have been doing artwork my whole life, but I finally got it out there in 2004 or 2005,” she said.
Weiner recalled being reviewed by Newsweek art critic Peter Plagens, who was one of the jurors of her first show.
“He said my work was ‘funny, concise and direct,’ despite it not being his cup of tea,” she said.
Weiner works in abstract sculpture and painting.
“I love the conversation you have with artwork,” she said. “You don’t have to know how to think about it. If it strikes a nerve, then O.K. It’s just a matter of taste.”
The third artist featured in the show — Levine — lived for nearly 30 years near Washington, D.C., where she lectured at the American University and held positions at the National Endowment for the Arts. She lived in Pittsburgh from 1998 until her death in 2010.
Many of her works on canvas, panel and paper have an underlying theme of the nature of patterns — their iteration, shift, interruption and redirection.
Levine advised Andy Warhol on subjects for one of his series focusing on “Great Jews” of the century. In 1982, she helped curate “The Jews in the Age of Rembrandt,” a critically well-received show of engravings, etchings and mezzotints, at New York’s Jewish Museum.
Influences of mathematics and literature are reflected in several of Levine’s pieces. “Ghostly Galleon,” for example, is based on the poem “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes. And “The Fatherland” depicts circles that relate to celestial bodies, their distance calculated from various places, ranging from Baghdad to Mars.
Adrienne Heinrich and Patricia Sheahan, who have been charged with finding appropriate showcases for Levine’s work since her death, submitted it for consideration for the Westmoreland show. After the show concludes, they will begin the process of donating Levine’s pieces to various museums, Sheahan said.
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)