Abstract Art of Jewish Sabbath to Open at Les Idees Gallery

Posted on January 30, 2013

The first in a series of religious art exhibits will open in Les Idees Gallery in the Union on Monday, Feb. 4, focusing on the Jewish Sabbath.

Ben Schachter

Ben Schachter, associate professor of fine art at St. Vincent College who has exhibited at Yale University and the Westmoreland County Museum of Art, brings together Jewish rule, community and art in his exhibit Jewish Geography. An artist’s talk and reception will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Monday in the Union’s Africa Room.

The event, sponsored by the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts, is the inaugural exhibit in an annual series of religious-themed artwork that Dean James Swindal hopes to bring to the campus community.

“It’s a way of giving our students and our departments—history, theology, sociology, philosophy—the benefit of the fine arts,” Swindal said. “Many of our students and their classes could use this as a way to relate to the fine arts.”

Schachter’s artwork, abstractions of physical places, focuses on the idea of the “eruv,” a symbolic enclosure that surrounds Jewish homes. He represents this idea through maps of Jewish eruvs from around the world.

In the Jewish tradition, practicing Orthodox Jews cannot carry anything outside the eruv of their community on the Sabbath. For instance, carrying food or pushing a stroller from one house to another is forbidden on the Sabbath. Yet, Schachter sees this process as building community space.

“Fostering community is important in both the Catholic and Jewish traditions,” Schachter said. “And yet, there are some laws that limit communal activities. I see an eruv as a highly regulated line running through space. For Orthodox Jewish communities, it blends individual houses into one communal home. At the same time, it is a collaged line winding its way through the city. More importantly, this set of rules is followed all over the world and to apply them in different places requires creativity.”

Ideas, such as paths and boundaries, are as much a part of modern and contemporary art as expression is, said Schachter. “I make a comparison between the rules conceptual artists set up for themselves that limited and guided their work and Jewish law that guides and illuminates behavior,” he said.

The exhibit, free and open to the public, runs through Monday, March 1.

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