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Jewish Journal

Eyes Wide Open

Women artists create vivid images of the mind

by Naomi Pfefferman

November 18, 1999 | 7:00 pm

Ruth Schrier paints wolves and landscapes of the mind; Judith Margolis captures the interior journey of her move to Israel. The work of both artists is on display in an exhibit, "Spiritscapes," at the University of Judaism through Jan 2.

When Margolis lived in Pico-Robertson, her work was preoccupied with often disturbing issues from the headlines: political tyranny, violence against women. The Skirball owns her controversial painting, "Splendor in the Brass: Bitburg," which depicts a brutal rape as a metaphor for how Jews felt when President visited the Nazi cemetery at Bitburg.

Since she moved to Israel in 1993, however, Margolis's work has turned inward, at times focusing on the perplexing experience of creating a new life in a new culture. "Writing on the Wall," covered with torn strips of Hebrew-language advertisements, describes the trauma of adapting to a new language. "It has to do with fragmented words and unintelligibility," says Margolis, whose work also reflects a soothing, spiritual dimension, a respite from the trauma of living in a country plagued by terrorism.

New images have begun to appear in her paintings: clouds filled with letters and dripping dew; the intricate root pattern of trees; a snake, a dark bird, a woman who sleeps with her head on a stone dreaming with eyes open. "Often, I have been led by my teacher to passages in sacred texts that describe the very images I have already painted," Margolis marvels. "The works are like stone markers that define...the direction of [my] path. They [serve as] both a guide and the record of my journey."

But Margolis's paintings also reflect an ambivalence about her new world: In "Aftermath," a bird mournfully contemplates a burning bush that is no longer burning, but only smolders. There is as well a preoccupation with the notion of chance, born of the artist's fear of random terrorist attacks. In the diptych "Shehechianu," blue letters spill like stars in a random pattern above a wall of Jerusalem stone.

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