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Indepth Arts News:

"TESTIMONY and MEMORY : Carole Smollan"
2009-02-26 until 2009-07-26
Yeshiva University Museum
New York, NY, USA United States of America

The beauty of the fabrics and the high degree of skill lavished on Torah mantles are a measure of the regard in which the Torah is held. The mantles “dress” and protect the sacred, handwritten scroll comprising the first five books of Moses. In “Testimony and Memory: Contemporary Miniature Torah Mantles,” at the Yeshiva University Museum, London artist Carole Smollan reinterprets these ceremonial covers using remnants from huppot (wedding canopies) that she designed for couples from around the world. This collection of 56 exquisitely detailed miniature mantles will be on display from February 26 through July 26, 2009. Carole Smollan promotes her work with a Portfolio at absolutearts.com.

Smollan’s Torah mantles exhibit an extraordinary range of decorative variation. She employs a variety of stitching techniques and other embellishments, such as applied lace, linking this body of work to her early career in lace and lingerie design. In addition to specializing in traditional processes, such as Japanese shibori, Smollan has developed her own technique of “bleeding” silk. These pattern- dyeing techniques, she believes, epitomize the way in which cloth retains the memory of any action that is performed on it. Additional resonance is generated by the fact that all of the textile fragments and trimmings used to construct the mantles come from the artist’s treasured store of off-cuts and rejected portions of other textile projects.

A small, moving series of Torah mantles tells the story of Smollan’s own family exodus from Lithuania to South Africa; these objects are artificially aged and stained and incorporate fragments of family travel documents and ketubot (Jewish marriage contracts), photographs, and other memorabilia. The series also bears silent witness to those family members who did not make the exodus and later perished in the Holocaust. Other imagery on the Torah mantles is more traditional – the Tree of Life, the menorah (seven-branched lamp), the Ark of the Covenant, and Hebrew prayers and words spoken at life-cycle ceremonies. They communicate a sense of Jewish identity and Jewish experience in the diaspora, evoking ideas of connectedness.

Born and raised in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Smollan does not remember a time when textiles were not a part of her life. In the 1990s she emigrated from South Africa to London. She describes her large collection of miniature Torah mantles as a “collective memory,” a weaving together (to use a textile metaphor) of her life’s artistic work and personal history.

Smollan works out of studios in London and Portugal. Her work has been exhibited internationally for almost forty years.

View more of Carole Smollan-Rudick's work in her portfolio at absolutearts.com http://www.absolutearts.com/portfolios/s/smollan

Artist: Carole Smollan-Rudick
Title: Ascending to Heaven
Year Created: 2009
Medium: Textile
Width: 9 inches
Height: 12 inches
Depth: 3 inches
Price: US$ 175

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