The objects Mae made and the books she wrote helped shape the field of Jewish Americana. Mae’s work, taken as a whole, reflects her view that “just as Jews have become an integral part of the American scene, so can a classical American symbol be used to express a Jewish theme.” A shining example is her hannukiah titled “Miss Liberty”, which is emblazoned with the last lines of Emma Lazurus’s poem “The New Colossus,” and is in the permanent collection of the Jewish Museum in NYC.
At first glance Diane Arbus might seem like an odd role model. To many she is simply a photographer of freaks. Her name is usually associated with the marginal and with what some call the “deviant.” Author Norman Mailer once said “giving a camera to Diane Arbus is like putting a live grenade in the hands of a child.” She struggled with depression for most her life and committed suicide in 1971 at the age of 48. She might not be the best example of a nice Jewish girl, but she is my choice for Women’s History Month.
Hazel Karr first contacted JWA because she wanted to add some biographical details to the article in the online Encyclopedia about her grandmother, Esther Kreitman. We struck up a correspondence with her and suggested she write a blog post about the differences between between her mother's artwork and her own.
Hazel Karr comes from a family steeped in art and literature. Her grandmother Esther wrote journal articles, translations, and novels, including the autobiographical Der Sheydim Tants(Deborah) in 1946. Esther’s brothers were Issac Bashevis Singer, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978, and Israel Joshua Singer, who wrote extensively in Yiddish. Esther’s son Maurice Carr had a long career in journalism in Paris and Israel; his wife was Hazel’s mother Lola; the daughter of another Yiddish writer (A.M. Fuchs), she painted throughout her life.
In this post, Hazel Karr searches for the meaning in her mother's paintings and in her own.
Tomorrow we celebrate the 104th birthday of Frida Kahlo, a Mexican artist known for her striking self-portraits. Kahlo's work was largely influenced by pain after a bus accident left her with permanent disabilities, making her an inspirational figure from a disability point of view.
In 2006, conceptual identity performance artist Maya Escobar (@mayaescobar) created a Youtube video called "el es frida kahlo," below.