JWA News Release: February 25, 2004
Jewish Women's Archive Presents
Weaving Women's Words: Baltimore Stories
at the Jewish Museum of Maryland
Baltimore, MD, February 25, 2004—A new exhibition, Weaving Women's Words: Baltimore Stories, will open at the Jewish Museum of Maryland (JMM) on Sunday, March 28, 2004. The exhibition, developed and curated by the Jewish Women's Archive (JWA), a national organization committed to transmitting the rich legacy of American Jewish women, captures the voices and preserves the stories of thirty Baltimore Jewish women who have lived through much of the last century. Using oral history, photography, and original works of contemporary art to interpret the women's lives, the exhibition will inspire and transform the way visitors view Jewish women's contributions to their families, institutions and society at large. It will remain on exhibit through July 18, 2004.
An opening reception for Weaving Women's Words will be held for the public at the JMM, at 15 Lloyd Street in Baltimore on March 28, 2004 from 1-4 p.m. For additional information about the opening and the exhibition, the public should call 410-732-6400, ext. 14.
The Jewish Women's Archive has also planned a series of events that will be held throughout the Baltimore area to complement themes explored in the exhibition. The events will launch with a symposium, "Jewish Women Building Community," featuring best-selling author and cultural observer, Gail Sheehy, on Monday, March 29 from 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. at the Maryland Institute College of Art's Brown Center in Baltimore. Tickets to the symposium are $10/person. To purchase tickets or for more information about the symposium and other special events sponsored by JWA, the public should call 410-732-6400. In conjunction with Weaving Women's Words, the JMM and JWA will together sponsor a variety of public programs including lectures, workshops, artist talks and family programs.
The 30 women whose lives are portrayed in Weaving Women's Words (referred to as narrators in the exhibition), all over the age of 75, include such notables as The Honorable Rosalie Abrams, artist Amalie Rothschild, community leader Shoshana Cardin, and Rebbetzin Hanna Weinberg. All of the women featured in the exhibition tell compelling stories in which they share their memories as teachers, social workers, businesswomen, hostesses, philanthropists and communal leaders, as well as mothers, wives, grandmothers, sisters, and friends. Says Brenda Brown Rever, Chair of the JWA Community Advisory Board, "From these living memories, we gain a better understanding of women's myriad contributions to their families, institutions-both Jewish and in general-and to society at large. As a group and individually, these women have accomplished so much. Sharing their stories with the public, combined with the artists' interpretations of their words and lives, will create a new and fuller understanding of the impact Jewish women have had on Jewish history, women's history, and Baltimore and America's history."
Weaving Women's Words was launched in Baltimore and Seattle in 2000 as part of JWA's national oral history initiative to capture the voices and preserve the records of American Jewish women from all walks of life. "In Baltimore as elsewhere, the varied and important roles of women have often been marginalized and neglected in standard historical accounts," says Jayne Guberman, JWA's Director of Oral History. "Life histories such as those we recorded here enable us to build a fuller and more accurate history that includes women's perspectives on the times in which they lived and their contributions to their families and communities." After conducting oral histories with the 30 Baltimore narrators, JWA invited eleven nationally recognized Jewish women artists to examine and interpret themes found in their histories through various visual media. These works of art, excerpts from the oral histories, and portraits of each narrator by renowned photographer Joan Roth, comprise the exhibition on view at the JMM through July 2004.
The artists selected for the exhibition represent tremendous geographic diversity—from Maryland to Michigan, California and Oregon—as well as diversity in the media in which they work and the themes they address. The selected artists include Lynne Avadenka, Harriete Estel Berman, Carol Hamoy, Leslie Golomb Hartman, Bonnie Lee Holland, Wendy Jachman, Viviana Lombrozo, Rhoda London, Debra Olin, Tammra Sigler, and Robbin Ami Silverberg. Baltimore painter Tammra Sigler will present a mixed media work, combining painting and collage, to address the theme of "neighborhoods," a topic that, according to Sigler, "was clearly of great importance to the narrators." Says Sigler, "One of the themes I've been working with in recent paintings is board games—and I found this format worked extremely well with the subject of neighborhoods." Creating a "painted game board," as an underpainting, Sigler addressed Baltimore neighborhoods and their sometimes complicated meanings, using scans of historic photographs, many of which were supplied by the narrators, that she printed onto archival paper, combined with layers of color to convey an underlying vibrancy, and reference points of interest. "While some images and narrators' memories filled me with nostalgia," says Sigler, "I was also struck by how divisive and segregated neighborhoods can be, even within the Jewish community." Sigler also speaks of the significance of vanishing points in the collaged images, noting that, "I regard this work and the exhibition as the opposite of a vanishing point. Jewish women in our society don't vanish and I want my work and the exhibition to serve as a reminder of this fact."
New York installation artist, Carol Hamoy, has created a work entitled, "Agents of Change" for the exhibit. "As thirteen women were assigned as my subjects for this project it made me think of Jacob's children, the leaders of the tribes of Israel (I always include Dina in my count) who number thirteen," says Hamoy. "That simple fact was the inspiration for my piece. The 'dresses' are a metaphor for woman and each of the garments differs from the one at either side as each woman differs from her twelve colleagues. They are displayed in a circle as it is one of the primary feminine symbols and is often associated with a consecrated space. Each piece of clothing carries the woman's name, her birth date and a quote from her transcript. The work has been suspended from above to represent the power and presence of these women so important to the Jewish community in Baltimore."
Exhibition curator Jill Vexler hopes that "Weaving Women's Words: Baltimore Stories" will be a vehicle through which visitors will have a transformative experience, and leave wanting to delve deeper into themselves, in search of a better understanding of their own roles, in their families, communities, and society at large." A catalog of the exhibition, including Roth's photos of the narrators, images of the artwork, excerpts from the narrators' oral histories, and essays by Vexler and others, will be published and sold in the JMM's gift shop.
Images of the artwork in Weaving Women's Words and portraits of the narrators are available upon request. Select narrators and artists are available to be interviewed.
Media sponsorship for "Weaving Women's Words: Baltimore Stories" was provided by Comcast, Baltimore Magazine, Baltimore Jewish Times, WYPR, and WBJC.
About the Jewish Women's Archive (JWA)
The Jewish Women's Archive (JWA) is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated uncovering, chronicling and transmitting the rich history of Jewish women and their contributions to society. Founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 1995, JWA has become a leading advocate for and center of education in Jewish women's history. JWA employs a combination of approaches to its work, from online exhibits to community-based oral history projects to public programs and events. For the 350th anniversary of Jewish communal life in North America, being celebrated in 2004-2005, JWA is serving as a coordinator and catalyst for programs focused on women and their contributions. For more information, visit the Jewish Women's Archive's website at jwa.org/exhibits/baltimore/.
About the Jewish Museum of Maryland (JMM)
The Jewish Museum of Maryland is dedicated to the interpretation of the Jewish experience in America, with special attention to the collection, preservation, and study of the history, traditions, and culture of Jewish life in Maryland. The Museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, noon - 4 p.m. The Museum is wheelchair accessible, and free, and secure parking for visitors is available at the corner of Lloyd and Lombard Streets. The Jewish Museum of Maryland is an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. The Museum's website is: www.jewishmuseummd.org.