Saturday, March 12, 2016

Andi Arnovitz: Exploring Her Cultural Truths

Since the first time I saw Andi Arnovitz' work, I confess to being mesmerized. The complexity of her concepts and constructed works of paper and mixed media, are something to behold. In fact, her pieces utilize prints and the printed word in a manner completely immersed in cultural heritage and history. The blend of Arnovitz' cultural influences and her convictions regarding social and political issues is refreshingly open and to the point. She holds nothing back, and I for one am glad to see an artist using her artistic voice to speak a truth.
In a rare moment of descriptive methodology, I will say that these printed "coats" are comprised of fragments from prayer books. They are rolled and folded, torn and bound into tiny rolls and squares, sewn together with long hair-like threads. The openings are sewn shut as a physical and symbolic closure/constraint. The wearer cannot wear the garment, but if they did, the constricted arm sleeves and bottom would further restrict the wearer. It speaks about a cultural practice using thousands of pages from prayer books which allude to the communal power of prayer and suggest an alternative narrative to random acts of violence.
In orthodox Judaism, an "agunah" is a woman whose husband refuses to give her a religious divorce, thereby forcing her into a chained state: unable to remarry, enter into a relationship or have children. These coats are composed of hundreds and hundreds of shredded marriage certificates, a metaphor for the state of her marriage. Reassembled into bulky and enormous coats, sewn shut at the sleeves and hems, these coats allude to her trapped, hopeless state.
Arnovitz poetically uses discarded religious objects and re-purposes them to talk about cultural experience/practice. The printed word and printed image are used interchangeably, and deftly.
Taking small fragments of prayer books and enfolding them into semi-sheer material and binding them into clusters speaks about the fragments of our heritage we take with us and what is often left behind as we move forward with our lives, and those who migrate to other cultures often take only a small part of their heritage or cultural possessions with them into their new world. Arnovitz lets is experience that migration and cultural loss through her prints and installations.
Arnovitz isn't afraid to tackle sensitive and delicate subjects. In the piece above, she talks about the death of a family and unborn child by terrorists. The piece serves as a shroud to commemorate the family.
In other projects, Arnovitz works with handmade books
and in a recent project, she boldly talks about women who have suffered acid attacks, a cultural phenomenon that seems to be spreading globally. In that series she has created portraits of women from around the world who have suffered an acid attack, all of whom exhibit some disfiguration.
I am encouraged to see a fellow printmaker take such liberties with the medium. Her work is superbly crafted and conceptually engaging. You can find more information about this artist below:
Andi LaVine Arnovitz (b.1959-) grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. She received her B.F.A. degree from Washington University in St. Louis, and currently lives with her family in Jerusalem.
Arnovitz worked in advertising and television as an art director before turning to fine arts. She is a printmaker, bookmaker and an assemblage artist who works with paper. Her pieces often reflect her childhood fascination with pattern, surface, and thread.
Since Arnovitz and her family moved to Jerusalem in 1999, much of her work is informed by the multiple Middle Eastern cultures living in Jerusalem. She is concerned with issues between Jews and Arabs, religious and non-religious, and subjects of Jewish law in contemporary society.
She has her work exhibited globally in Europe, the US, Canada, Israel, and her work has been included in many public collections including foreign ministries and private foundations.
Israel Foreign Ministry
Magnus Library, University of California at Berkeley
Museum of Art Ein Harod, Israel
National Library of Israel
US Library of Congress
Yale University
Yeshiva University Museum

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