Late November and early December is Chanukah festival time in L.A. This weekend, no less than 30 artisans from all over the globe will converge on West L.A.'s Temple Isaiah for the Festival of Jewish Artisans, which celebrates its second decade this year. Making her first appearance at the annual event will be metal artist Aimée Golant - a young artist not much older than the Festival itself - who fashions mezuzot and menorahs in a quasi-abstract style.
Now based in San Francisco, Golant, 27, is actually a local girl who grew up in L.A.'s Carthay Circle. In her work, she not only draws on inspiration from her grandparents' Polish heritage (grandpa is from Chmielnik, grandma is from Lodz), but from their history - the Beverlywood residents are Holocaust survivors. During the war, Golant's grandfather, who had a reputation for working with his hands, was chosen to work at a Nazi office as a machinist, while her grandmother accompanied him, employed as a maid. Golant said that when her grandparents first saw her work, they couldn't believe that the Holocaust had touched her life.
Golant, who attended San Francisco State, has always felt connected to her Jewishness. She went to Hebrew school as a youth and lived in Israel for two months when she was 15. At a Holocaust museum there, she saw concentration camp footage that she said moved her more than a "Schindler's List" ever could. And she relishes the fact that her pieces can be something of an enigma.
"People who aren't Jewish don't have the foggiest idea what they are," she said, "and Jews sometimes look at them and say, 'That's a mezuzah?'"
Since 1998, Golant has been working on her own, attending trade shows and selling her art wholesale to galleries, museum shops and museums. And her work will, quite literally, reach unprecedented heights with her "barbed wire mezuzah," which was commissioned by the 1939 Club to be taken into space by an Israeli astronaut who wants to take along a symbol of the Holocaust.
The 20th Annual Festival of Jewish Artisans takes place Nov. 18-19. An opening concert, "Celebrate," will feature Rev. Andrae Crouch and Cantor Evan Kent. For more information, call (310) 277-2772. Sample art can be viewed atwww.TempleIsaiah.com. Aimée Golant's work can be seen at www.aimeegolant.com.