Ceremonial fabrics in any culture tie people to that culture and give them a sense of belonging to it.
—Susan Turner, Winnipeg Artist
Tabernacle will be on display at the Jewish Heritage Centre in the Asper Jewish Community Campus
April 12 - June 17. It is an exhibition of digital prints based on
Jewish ceremonial fabrics.
The artist, Susan Turner, reflects on the exhibit for SCENE.
* * * *
I love fabric and pattern and colour.
I remember being a little girl sitting next to my father in the synagogue with my legs dangling off the bench and swinging. You know, the way kids do.
I was snuggled against him and was playing with the fringes on his prayer shawl, the talit, twisting them and knotting them and wrapping them around my fingers. I used to think of the fairytale of Rapunzel and her long hair.
I then had to undo all the fringes, of course, and make sure they were untangled before he took off his talit and put it back into the little royal blue velvet bag he carried it in, ready for next sabbath at synagogue.
While I'm not religious at all, I grew up in a culturally rich and vibrant Jewish atmosphere. And in the same way, for example, that someone who is Catholic might respond in a very basic way to the elements of the mass, I respond to these ceremonial fabrics that I know so well.
Ceremonial fabrics in any culture tie people to that culture and give them a sense of belonging to it. It's the same with clothing: for example, when we see someone wearing a sari or a hijab, we immediately have learned something about that person.
And ceremonial fabrics of one culture or clothing that people wear make us distinct one from another.
In the archive of the Heritage Centre, I found two gorgeous velvet hangings used as covers for the wooden ark in which the Torah, the scrolls, are kept.
The hangings are about 5 feet wide by about 6 feet high. They're embellished with gold braid, beading, and images of lions and pomegranates and crowns are sewn into them with silk and brass threads.
These ark covers were used in the Adas Yeshurun Synagogue, which was on the corner of Magnus and McGregor. But the amazing thing about this discovery for me is that my family attended this synagogue from the time they arrived from Russia about 1912 until the mid-1950s.
So, of course I wanted to work with these items. I photographed them, downloaded the images to my computer, and began to play with the files in terms of size, colour, and with many of the filters available in Photoshop. These images show up in the prints "Whirlwind," "Canopy," "Pillar of Fire," "Lion of Judah."
The prints are very heavily worked, and are not direct representations of the fabrics, but are abstract musings on them. I think of them in some way as paintings.