Today, Jodi Rudoren, Jerusalem bureau chief for the New York Times, raved about a new collection from Israeli artist Andi Arnovitz, called “Threatened Beauty,” which is currently on display at the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem. The collection, consisting of 33 collages, aims to deconstruct the “breathtakingly seductive” artistic legacy of the Islamic world.
“What if these Persian, Anatolian and Uzbek textiles, rugs and ceramics were manipulated to reflect the political turmoil and the nuclear arms race we are witnessing today?” Arnovitz said. The results, writes, Rodoren, is “alluring, even beautiful; unsettling, even shocking.”
Writes Rudoren” “Arnovitz…thought it unwise for Mr. Netanyahu to accept a Republican invitation to speak to Congress in March against the emerging nuclear deal, but she echoes what the prime minister said. As the June 30 deadline for signing a deal approaches, she said she would like to hang her work ‘on the walls of Congress’ and make President Obama ‘look at this every night before he goes to bed.’”
There is “Fordow’s Underground,” a reference to the secret uranium-enrichment plant whose fate has been among the sticking points in negotiations between Iran and six world powers, rendered here from bits of images of Persian carpets as flowers atop machinery operated by men in turbans. “Heavy Water,” as in the plutonium-enabling reactor at Arak, shows angry, mutant fish trapped in a vicious circle. “In Tehran Do They Kiss Their Children Goodnight, Too?” was inspired by the Sting song that mused similarly about the Russians in the Cold War era.
An Orthodox Jew, Arnovitz grew in Kansas City and attended Washington University in St. Louis. She immigrated to Jerusalem in 1999, where she lives with her husband and five children in a 7,500+ sq. ft. home, which the New York Times has featured.
In 2010, Nextbook executive director Morton Landowne, wrote about Arnovitz’s collection called, “Tear/Repair,” which consisted of “a series of paper coats based on Jewish women who have changed the world.”
The coats, Arnovitz said, grew out of her perception that “there is no single ethnic garment that loudly and clearly says ‘Jewish woman.’ In her proposed remedies, which often look simple and shapeless, the message is contained in the materials used.
One series of coats is devoted to agunot, the so-called “chained women,” who, according to Jewish law, cannot remarry due to their husbands’ refusal to grant a divorce, or inconclusive evidence of a husband’s death. Arnovitz obtained and photocopied hundreds of ketubot(marriage contracts), and tore them into small pieces. With thread she affixed the fragments onto massive paper coats. The sleeves, hems and collars were sewn shut, and the threads, evidence of her painstaking process, were left hanging, a metaphor for the agunah, herself.
“For centuries,” Arnovitz said, “women had few means of creative expression; so many of them poured their talents into the creation of these objects; I attempt to honor these women through my work.”
According to the website of the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem, Arnovitz’s works will be on display through June 6.
Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.