Beth Grossman


View the Image Slideshow for Beth Grossman's Work (Opens a new window).

Artist: Beth Grossman
Medium: multi media
Location: San Francisco
Photo Credits: Jay Jones

Artist Statement

A common thread in my artwork is re-contextualized stories and interpretation of history. I draw questions from history, establish a connection to the present and express hope for the future. I begin by collecting found objects chosen for their shape, function or symbolism to represent a particular time, place or community. I assemble these commonplace objects and layer interpreted histories on them, adding my marks, questions and message. These artworks create new stories that are connected to the history of the objects and to the people who used them before me.

As a Jewish artist, I am honored to be included in your dialog...these are the kinds of connections that motivate me to do my work!

Our Mother Mary Found
While living in in 2000, Grossman noticed that the images and ideals of the Virgin Mary were woven into the fabric of Italian culture. The artist began to look deeper into the iconic symbolism of the "Madonna." Our Mother Mary Found re-interprets Christianity by personifying Mary's life as a Jewish mother. Grossman recognized that Mary's Jewish identity could open a new approach to interfaith dialogue. The sacredness of a mother's love goes beyond religion, emphasizing humanity as the foundation of these two world religions.

Madonna and ChildThis collection of ten rustic household tools, found in Italy, illustrate the artist's personal Jewish interpretation of the archetypal story of Mary. Each hand-hewn object was chosen for its shape, function or symbolism to represent an episode in Mary's legendary story as depicted in Italian paintings of the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods. A Jewish prayer, excerpted from an 18th century Italian prayer book,* is gilded in Hebrew, English and Italian on each object. These prayers reflect the chapters in Mary's life as she raised her son in the Jewish tradition.

CoronationImages of Mary hands, drawn from historical Italian paintings, are also rendered in gold leaf on each object to illuminate them. Mary's hands give symbolic form to the traditional narrative of maternal love and devotion. In researching the Italian paintings, Grossman noticed that the hand gestures communicated a recognizable pattern of edifying human emotions. To quote Grossman, Our Mother Mary Found, "juxtaposes these historic visual codes against the more pragmatic reality of a woman whose daily labor as a mother and faithful Jew gave birth to a prophet and nurtured a revolutionary."

* A Book of Prayers for the Married Jewish Woman, written in the year 5546 (1786) for Mrs. Yehudit Kutscher Coen and presented by Giuseppe Coen. Edited and translated as Out of the Depths I Call to You, by Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin © 1995, 1992, Jason Aronson, Inc. Publishers.


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