Editor, San Diego Jewish World
I recently asked for your readers’ help in locating a high school classmate of mine, Laurie Phyllis Wohl, who lived in the Kensington neighborhood of San Diego and graduated Hoover High School in 1960. I know her mother was active in Temple Beth Israel.
I found Laurie! I asked the Wellesley College Alumni Group to forward my contact info and I got an email from her today. So first, thank you for your offer of assistance in locating Laurie.
Second, you and your readers may want to visit her professional website to see her magnificent work as a world renowned textile designer. She has incorporated elements of her Jewish faith in some of her works and has a very impressive list of commissions and showings around the world. She graduated Sarah Lawrence College and Colombia Law School and lives in New York City with her husband, Stephen Schulhofer, a professor of law at NYU. Some of your readers may remember Laurie and her parents from their years here in San Diego.
Thank you again for responding to my request. This has been a wonderful day for me!
Linda Mohr Crogan
Determined to save the life of her infant son from Pharaoh’s edict to kill all the male infants among the Israelites, she wove a basket and sadly – but courageously – pushed it into the Nile River. Without her action our story may never have been.
One of a series of seven women of the Hebrew Bible illustrating the moment in their lives when they were at pivotal point, contributed significantly to subsequent events and/or set a precedent in the history of our people. — Sheila Orysiek
Orysiek is a freelance writer and artist based in San Diego.
SAN DIEGO (SDJW) — Sheila Orysiek of San Diego has put pen to paper to draw seven women of the Bible at pivotal times in their lives or when their actions “contributed significantly to subsequent events and/or set a precedent in the history of our people.”
For our readers’ enjoyment, San Diego Jewish World will present the drawings consecutively in issues over the next week (Shabbat excluded)
The first focuses on Sarah.
Writes the artist:
“Sarah, wife of Abraham, had accompanied him on all his journeys. She was present when the three Visitors promised that she would bear a son. She helped Abraham as he hosted the Visitors and though she laughed at the idea of giving birth at her advanced age, she did indeed become the mother of Isaac and thus of Israel.”
Preceding was a San Diego Jewish World staff report
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WJC)–Heirs of the late Hungarian Jewish banker and art collector Baron Mor Lipot Herzog are suing the Hungarian government for the return of more than 40 paintings seized during World War II and estimated to be worth more than US$ 100 million. The case, filed in Washington DC, follows a failed battle in Hungarian courts.
Family members, who are also suing state-owned museums, say Hungary currently holds about 40 works, including paintings by El Greco. Herzog left the collection to his children when he died in 1934 before it was plundered by the Nazis. “What happened in the Holocaust was reprehensible,” Herzog’s great grandson, David de Csepel, said. “But what Hungary is doing is also egregious, knowing that this art belonged to our family.”
The family’s lawyer, Michael Shuster, told the ‘Los Angeles Times’ the legal action was “one of the largest – if not the largest – restitution claims ever filed in US courts by a single family against another nation”.
The heirs won a small victory in 2000, when Budapest’s municipal court ruled that ten looted paintings, which were part of the Herzog collection, legally belonged to his grand-daughter Martha Nierenberg. However, in 2008, an appeals court overturned this ruling.
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress
By Sheila Orysiek
SAN DIEGO–The 17th Annual Jewish Arts Festival, which runs from May 30th to June 21, spans the wide spectrum of the performing arts. Malashock Dance and Hot P’Stromi brought together modern dance and Klezmer at the Lyceum Space Theatre in downtown San Diego. I attended the performance on June 13th.
What better way to celebrate art than to bring together artists of different genres to celebrate the life of another artist? John Malashock – founder and choreographer of Malashock Dance – and Yale Strom – violinist, composer, filmmaker, writer, playwright and photographer – combined their significant talents to produce their newest collaboration Chagall.
The Lyceum Space Theatre is a small venue (seating approximately 270) with a square stage jutting out into the audience on two sides. Thus one is both near enough to feel close to the action, but far enough away to see the design concept as a whole. Seats are in tiers, so for the most part sight lines are good. Because of the proximity over zealous amplification can be avoided – for which this observer is grateful.
Strom brings his varied background plus a group of musicians playing Klezmer (and more) under the name: Hot P’Stromi. The program opened with several selections of Klezmer from parts of Eastern Europe, such as the vicinity where Chagall was born and spent his childhood, to Romania which is just across the river.
Love it or not, and I do love it, it is impossible not to respond to Klezmer. In some ways it is like American jazz – the musicians responding to one another, each in turn picking up the motif – adding, subtracting, clarifying and crafting a specific sound for a specific instrument. Then, coming all together they go rollicking along. But, Klezmer also can be winsome and even sad. The audience reacted to both – some barely able to keep their seats.
John Malashock founded his modern dance company in 1988 and has been a significant presence in San Diego ever since. His background is impressive and runs the gamut from film (dancing in Amadeus), television specials, choreographing for many other companies – both dance and opera -culminating in four Emmy awards. He spoke to the audience briefly – but enjoyably – about the work being performed and his plans for it.
Chagall is still a work in progress and Malashock presented three scenes from what will eventually be a full length amalgam of dance, music and imagery. The first scene was of the village Vitebsk, where Chagall was born in what is now Belarus, but was then Russia and at times Poland. The second scene is his first significant love who introduces him to her friend who becomes the “love of his life.”
Michael Mizerany, associate artistic director and senior dancer (with an impressive resume including two Lester Horton Dance Awards) was “Chagall” and brought to the role an understanding of how to portray a painter/artist through the art of dance/movement.
It is difficult to understand why Chagall would reject his first love, Thea, (Lara Segura) for Bella (Christine Marshall). But love is not mental – it is visceral and there is no accounting for it. It is the one emotion we cannot place at the service of reason; however, I think I would enjoy seeing that explored a bit more. Segura was a lovely Thea. Costumed in a simple short white sheath she danced passionately while still innocent enough to introduce her friend to her lover. Marshall, surely a fine dancer, didn’t quite tell me what Chagall saw in her to capture his heart – but perhaps that was not Malashock’s intent. Or perhaps Chagall didn’t know.
Chagall’s physical love feeds his artistic vision. He takes his brush and paints her in invisible images upon invisible canvasses. Then, he uses his brush to explore her body – never vulgarly – but always seeking to understand her outline. Maybe that is what he really needs.
The pas de deux (this is modern dance so perhaps I should say “dance for two”) is well done – but somehow didn’t convey the depth of passion that must have been there. However, this is still a work in progress not only for the choreographer, but also for the dancers and they haven’t as yet internalized it. It is certainly a good beginning.
Tribes premiered in 1996 and has the feeling and confidence of a complete work, completely conceived – much like a Mozart symphony. It is a dance (again using Strom’s original music) which is described by Malashock as follows: “….each dancer creates his/her own culture. These fantastical “tribes” connect, collide, and ultimately share in a blending of the eternal spirit.”
It is always fascinating to see what Malashock does with the music; forming groups and then breaking them apart. Each twosome or threesome dances to the same music at the same time, but completely differently – bringing to view other aspects of the music. And each is valid and “true.” I find myself saying “yes, that is how the music looks.” He also never falls overly in love with his own invention – it is given, enjoyed and then he moves on, confident in his next vision. The flow is natural, never contrived, and though one knows of the reality of the endless rehearsal which must have taken place, the movement is fresh, natural and seemingly – what a painter would call – a “happy accident.”
The dance flows from shape to shape, pausing for just a moment to allow the eye to capture it, but still keeping the seams between phrases invisible. The entire body is used; hands and heads as important as legs and arms as important as spines and breath. There were a couple of times, when the choreography allowed, I would have enjoyed seeing some eye contact betwixt the dancer and the observer – a living connection; “I am also dancing for you.”
Dance critic Orysiek is based in San Diego. She may be contacted at ORZAK@aol.com
By Donald H. Harrison
SAN DIEGO–Outside the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park stand two large, fanciful sculptures by Niki de Saint Phalle, an internationally celebrated sculptor who lived in La Jolla in the final
years of her life. One created in 1998 from glass, stones, mirrors and polyester, called “Poet and
Muse,” depicts a male poet with a female muse on his shoulders, his arms transforming into her legs.
The other, playfully called a “Nikigator,” is an elongated, exagerrated alligator made from similar materials and sitting on playground foam, a delightful magnet for preschoolers who can scamper through the Nikigator’s innards.
“Poet and Muse” is a tribute to the creative process that drives the folk artists and craftspeople whose works are on exhibit at the Mingei,whereas the “Niki-gator” matches the museum’s theme, which is celebration of artisans who turn everyday objects into works of art through their care and talent. Playground equipment could simply be functional, but not in Saint Phalle’s world. This piece, intended to be touched, caressed and climbed upon by tykes, is a stimulus for the young imagination.
Saint Phalle’s works are exhibited throughout the world, and especially in San Diego County. “Coming Together” is a large circular piece outside the downtown San Diego Convention Center; “Queen Califia’s Magic Circle” is in Kit Carson Park in Escondido, and” Sun God” is a prominent feature on the UCSD campus. Saint-Phalle also has an entire menagerie of imaginative, fanciful animals on permanent exhibit at the Jerusalem Zoo.
Inside Balboa Park’s re-created House of Charm, built in its original incarnation for the 1915 Panama-California Exhibition, the Mingei held a major restrospective of Saint Phalle’s work. Following her death in 2002, what had been a planned as another exhibit for her at the Mingei’s smaller facility in Escondido, was transformed into a tribute to her life and works.
Saint-Phalle and the museum’s founder, Martha Longenecker, were close friends. Saint Phalle not only was represented in the museum’s collection, she became one of its important financial benefactors. One day, according to Martha Ehringer, the museum’s public relations director, Saint Phalle told Longenecker she wanted to purchase for the museum any piece it wanted. Thrilled, Longenecker suggested a grand piano. But Saint Phalle decided anyone with sufficient funds could make such a gift, she wanted something much finer, much more memorable. So she commissioned a long table suitable for board meetings to be made by Mira Nakashima at the Nakashima Woodshop in New Hope, Pennsylvania, and purchased 18 chairs fashioned by Mira’s father, the late master woodworker George Nakashima– two chairs to be placed at each end of the table, and seven along each side.
Doug Smalheer, a docent who taught U.S. history for 40 years, a majority of that time at San Diego’s Mesa College, is enamored of the table and chairs, and tells the story of Nakashima’s life and works with all the zest of one describing Washington crossing the Delaware, or Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation.
Nakashima grew up in Seattle, Washington, and earned a master’s degree in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He went overseas to France, Japan, and India after graduation, becoming an admirer of Eastern thought and religion. Not long after he returned to the United States, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, and as a Japanese-American he was resettled in a camp in Idaho, where he practiced carpentry before being permitted to relocate to the arts colony at New Hope, Pennsylvania, where his family still lives.
Smalheer explained that Nakashima believed that a tree was intended to be a tree — and that therefore artisans who must transform it to other uses should to the greatest extent possible honor the tree’s original purpose. If one follows the edge of the table from one end to the other, it is not in a straight line, but instead maintains the original contour of the tree. It flares at one end, where its roots might have begun, and it bulges slightly at the other, where its branches might have originated.
After being felled, the tree had been sliced lengthwise, but not entirely severed, so that its front and back could be laid side by side while still connected. These halves were reinforced by Nakashima in several places by wood patches described variously as “bow ties” or “butterflies.” Although he was not the first to use the technique, they were a trademark of Nakashima’s. Smalheer tells a story about a collector who ordered a table like Nakashima’s. The artisan emphasized its grain and its natural contours, but the patron was dissatisfied. He wouldn’t finalize the purchase until the artisan put in the butterfly patches.
The Nakashima conference table and chairs are found upstairs amid the museum’s permanent collection. Ehringer said the museum has collected many more works than it ever can display at one time, even with two museum locations–and this is especially true because exhibits from around the world are continually being rotated in and out of the museum.
Another exhibit from the permanent collection displays 56 Chinese hat boxes in what Ehringer describes as a Xanadu type setting. Uniforms were required of officials serving the Qing Dynasty — the last dynasty to rule China — and these uniforms included hats. Depending on the office, the hats were of different shapes, with all being adorned with badges of office.
Families saved the hats in their boxes through the rise of Sun Yat Sen, and Chiang Kai Shek. But after the Communists took control of the mainland–and especially during the Cultural Revolution — being proud that family members served the Imperial Household could bring suspicion, even censure, upon the owners of these hats. So the hats either were destroyed or hidden. But the boxes were kept, because they still had utilitarian purposes — things could be stored in them. And it was these boxes that were collected by exhibition designer Peter Cohen, and eventually donated to the Mingei.
Tables, chairs, hat boxes — these are every day objects, and yet those at the Mingei Museum are exquisite in their beauty. For a visit to the Mingei to be properly enjoyed, one should schedule enough time to survey the objects and savor their stories.
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. This article appeared previously on examiner.com