Two Jewish artists, Cynthia Beth Rubin and Yona Verwer, with very different artistic histories and interests, came together in creating this collaborative work depicting symbolism and memories surrounding the 12 months in the Jewish calendar.
In 2014 the artists embarked on a collaborative series, eventually centering on the Zodiacs found in the Stanton Street Shul on the Lower East Side of NYC as a point of departure for their then divergent interests, as Cynthia Beth Rubin brought years of explorations of imagined cultural memories and architectural spaces, and Yona Verwer brought a deep knowledge of Jewish ritual and Biblical text. Together they embarked on sharing their expertise and exchanging perceptions in the best tradition of “study partners,” resulting in a series exploring Jewish immigrant experience, ritual, and tradition.
Motifs from the Stanton Street Shul, as a site of Jewish immigrant life past and present, inform this work. In telling these stories, the artists drew on Rubin’s family roots in the Jewish immigrant experience combined with Verwer’s knowledge of the Zodiacs on the walls of the Stanton Street Shul, where she had once been a congregant.
Digital image processing is key to the collaborations produced by Rubin and Verwer, as it provides the means for the interweaving of each artist’s individual interpretations and artistic sensibilities, in arriving at works that in turn interweave historical, personal and religious symbolism. Photographic sources and analogue paintings are seamlessly integrated within the computer, using layers of color, texture, and form manipulation to arrive at imagery that merges the intentions and observations of both artists. Joint visits to historical sites, especially the Stanton Street Shul and the lower east side, are of course an essential component of working together, as each artist shares her knowledge and personal associations in observational conversation.
As the collaboration developed, each artist enriched the perspective of the other, so that gradually their individual interests crossed and informed the thinking of the other. The ongoing series continues to challenge each of them to think more expansively.
The first part of the project consists of banners on canvas and prints on paper, which have been exhibited in NYC, nationally and internationally.
Recently the artists collaborated with web developer Kris Tonski to create an interactive website Zodiacs on the Lower East Side.
This work-in-progress allows the viewer to hover over each page where three short videos pop up.
Images of some previous exhibitions
Installation view of the project at Evergreen Arts Center
Cynthia showing an Ipad video at the Denver exhibition
Yona showing a video on the Ipad