Somewhere near the intersection of Torah discussions with his rabbi wife and his obsession with comic books, Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik discovered paper midrash.
“I look for things that the rabbis talk about, things from the tradition, and I let myself go with it. I figure tradition didn’t stop at certain place, and who says we can’t participate? So I bring my interpretations to those stories and use my art to share them with others,” said Brynjegard-Bialik, a graphic designer who has been creating Jewish papercuts and paintings for 15 years.
“Paper Midrash,” Brynjegard-Bialik’s first solo show, featuring 23 paper cuts and 4 paintings, will run at the Slutzky Art Gallery at the Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County Jan. 24 through Feb. 27.
For many of the paper cuts, Brynjegard-Bialik carved up comic books to add layers of meaning to the works. In a piece called “Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire,” Brynjegard-Bialik cut up images of The Watchers, a 1960s Marvel Comics extraterrestrial race that teams up with the Fantastic Four. Watchers were meant to just observe mankind, but most often became involved.
“For many people there is such ambiguity about God.” Brynjegard-Bialik said. In ancient Israel, “God was constantly involved in the people’s lives, performing miracles, talking to prophets. This piece asks, how do we see God’s presence in our lives now? Is God involved? Is God a Watcher. Is God a pillar of fire?”
In “Revelation,” interlocking swirls of colorful clouds funnel onto a patchwork mountain.
“The rabbis say Sinai resembled a kiln, the way smoke was rising from it,” Brynjegard-Bialik said. “What does it mean to think of Sinai as a kiln, a place where things are created?”
One of the more whimsical works, “Make Yourself an Ark,” evokes a model cutout kit, complete with ark, mini Noah and family, animals, even pots and pans.
Brynjegard-Bialik, who is a communications director at Deloitte business services, says his three daughters are now into comics as well. His wife, Rabbi Shawna Brynjegard-Bialik, is an assistant rabbi at Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge.