Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Art & Art History
How does one elucidate the burden of their personal and cultural history? The concept of culture is a vast and at times opaque circumstance of human existence rooted in centuries of tradition and ritual. How can I, as an American artist, understand my sense of individuality and freedom within the ethnic milieu of Jewish history? Researching the foundation of my relationship to Jewish culture and making art in response has provided a sense of transparency and levity to a previously obstructed aspect of my identity.
Although I am three generations removed, the legacy of the Holocaust manifested itself through occurrences in my childhood, encounters with media, and in the development of my personal psychology. With this in mind, I am in the process commemorating Jewish American culture, as I understand it. This process involves creating a series of hand-built ceramic sculptures based on exaggerated interactions I have had with my family and re-interpreted moments found in popular culture. As I mythologize my personal history through creating ceramic objects, a physical home is constructed for my personal narrative and the narrative of American Jewish culture to which I am inextricably linked.
This process is a discovery of imagery, language, icons and characteristics that are particular to Jews in America. I utilize metaphors and narrative in recreating seemingly mundane objects such as a tube of Cortisone cream, a bunch of bananas, a UPS shirt as well more obvious Jewish representations like a menorah, a loaf of challah and a tallis. This work celebrates these tropes as objects, while examining their role in contemporary society.
My work and my family, though laden with grief and humor, are transparent and joyous. My identity and my family, though laden with grief and humor, are transparent and joyous. My identity and my studio practice are enmeshed into one organism. This tangled entity obscures my outlook and buries me into the earth with my ancestors. Through the rare gift of seeing this force in its totality, I observe that despite its gravity and power, it never is, never was, and never could be.
Schiffman, Judd, "BECAUSE IT COULD GET INFECTED" (2015). Art Practices MFA Theses. 42.