Contact firstname.lastname@example.org From North America: (510) 550 1173 In Israel: (077) 662 1230
Ellen Holtzblatt, United States
Ellen Holtzblatt is a Chicago-based artist, working in the media of painting, drawing, printmaking and artist books. Her current work focuses on ritual and biblical themes, making emotional and experiential connections. Holtzblatt’s series of paintings, Yizkor, is an introspective exploration of the relationships among memory, death and birth. Also, she recently created an artist book of woodcuts, Hamabul, inspired by the biblical flood as an allegory of rebirth and spiritual purification. The woodcut prints look at the archetype of journeying through water as a mirror of the stark reality of human existence — death, sex, gestation and birth. Holtzblatt received her B.F.A. and graduate certificate in art therapy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her M.Ed. from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has exhibited her work internationally at diverse venues, and is included in public and private collections, including the Joan Flasch Artists' Book Collection and The Center for Book Arts. www.ellenholtzblatt.com
Reflections on Being a Jewish Woman Artist
Underneath, in between, and around the surface details of prayer, ritual and biblical narratives, I find layers of personal, emotional and spiritual meaning. The literal tales are spare; emotions are missing or hinted at, and character traits are only suggested. This frugality of language permits delving beneath the outer coats of the stories into a deeper and more mystical realm. The empty spaces on the written page become as important as the words themselves.
Yizkor, "remember" in Hebrew, is a memorial service that expresses the Jewish belief in infinity of the soul. My series of paintings and drawings, Yizkor, is an introspective exploration of the relationships among memory, death and birth. My father died on my birthday, tangibly and forever linking his passing to my beginning. From miscarriage to delivery, generational timelines distort and memories overflow. Birds convey a specific meaning, in that they inhabit earth, sea and sky. Symbolic of flight and freedom, beautiful in death and life — they assume the persona of messenger or angel.
Hamabul – The Flood
The biblical story of the flood primarily addresses the small segment of life that is saved: Noah and other residents of the ark. Yet I wonder about the experience of the drowning creatures, and the representation of water as the instrument of death.
I envision the devastation of the human and beastly bodies. I visualize the figures of the flood story with their gaping orifices, becoming one with the waters. I am compelled by this devastation, and by the implications of spiritual renewal. The bible begins with divine creation, yet only divine retreat allows space for mortal creativity. There is no need for Adam and Eve to create while living in the idyllic Garden of Eden. Childbirth and labor come after the expulsion. Suffering necessitates creative action.
Although the flood is brutal and deadly it utilizes the living sea as its medium of ruin. Water signifies purity and rebirth in the archetypes of literature and visual art. To journey through water takes one from the mundane to the holy and from the weakness of mortality to potency.
Birth and death are recurring themes in the bible. In Samuel I, the biblical narrative mostly belongs to Hana — her infertility and subsequent birthing. She is consumed by the desire that originates in her body, to carry and give birth to a child. Instead, each month Hana experiences death, as her womb flows out the potential for life.
Seventeen years ago, on a day between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, I had a miscarriage, a deluge of individual proportion. Hana's narrative is also my story. The emotion of her infertility is raw, as is the satisfaction of her childbirth. Inspired by personal narratives, my work utilizes the archetypal language of my ancestry and my physicality. It is this uniquely feminine intimacy, transcending border and time, which compels me.