Contact firstname.lastname@example.org From North America: (510) 550 1173 In Israel: (077) 662 1230
Geraldine Fiskus, USA
Parshat Chayei Sarah
Since graduating from The Cooper Union in 1965, Geraldine Fiskus has been moving toward a deeply personal, emotionally uninhibited expressionism that has continued to gain momentum. Publications include Fixing The World: Jewish American Painters In The 20th Century, by Ori Z. Soltes, Univ. Press of New England; Women Artists Of The American West, by Susan Ressler, Mc Farland, 2003. USA exhibits include: Red Dot Fine Art & Gold Leaf Fine Art in Santa Fe, NM; Capitol Arts Network in Bethesda, MD; the District of Columbia Art Center; international exhibits in Israel, China, Mexico & England.
Reflections on Being a Jewish Woman Artist
The Bible as Personal Resource
I was Jewishly educated in yeshivot, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn; in Jamaica, Queens; Far Rockaway and finally at Jamaica High School. Our morning classes were dedicated to the chumash, Hebrew language, Jewish history and culture (including music and dance), the Prophets and some Talmud. My father, who escaped from a concentration camp, received his smichah in Nitra in Czechoslovakia. While he was shedding his strict orthodoxy during my youth, he continued to send me to yeshivah so that my religious choice as an adult would be an "educated choice". Today I am on the board of my congregation HaMakom in Santa Fe. I do not attend services every week but when I am there I am 100% present.
I believe I learned more from my Yeshivah teachers than Torah. It was after the War, some of my teachers were American born or emigrated before the war. My 7th grade teacher, Miss Leiberman had a tattoo on her arm from the camps. The painful memories of the Holocaust, empowered them in their mission to educate Jewish youth, all believed deeply and personally in all things Jewish. It was not unusual for a teacher to shed a tear during a lesson. When Rabbi Dubin taught the girl's class the poetry of Yermiyahu, it was as if the prophet himself was in the room. He didn't have any discipline problems. We were all mesmerized.
I would have to say that Torah is under my skin and flowing through my veins. Most importantly it informs my art. I draw on the density, intent which invests meaning in each word and syllable and the primal power of the Jewish experience from Biblical times and throughout our history.
As an artist, my first direct focus on the Jewish experience as subject of my art occurred in Israel in 1993-94 when I was an Artist-in-Residence on the Arad Arts Project. A book by David Goberman on Jewish Tombstones in Ukraine and Moldova inspired the series Reclaiming a Legacy: Reinventing the Visual Language of Jewish Stelae of Eastern Europe. I still draw on the healing powers of this body of work, which embraces pain through the energy of Jewish vision and tradition. Recently I have been giving slide presentations of this work to classes on grief and trauma at Southwestern College in Santa Fe.
The tradition of masking memorials through metaphor was a powerful tool to express grief, yet safeguard the fears and ever present anxieties about imminent danger and mortality. While traditional gravestones memorialize the individual, my paintings are intended to express a much larger cultural grief that will never go away. Bloodbath depicts a massacre in the forest. The title is a term my father who had the good fortune of escaping a camp, repeated again and again. "Bloodbath" was his word for the Holocaust. Birds stand in for the human victims with uprooted, truncated trees in the background. Not only are the victims suffering, the whole world is as well. The use of metaphor allows the viewer easier access and empathy since it peels away the prejudice at the root of genocide and becomes a universal statement against war. The carnage and environmental devastation also reads as a reference to natural and cultural destruction worldwide today. The final paintings from this series, Fischl and Karpl, essentialize the emotional pain and raw consciousness of the hunted and persecuted.
My most recent paintings of self-portraits and details of facial features grew from the pain and anxiety surrounding the deaths of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the war in Iraq and personal experiences with loss. My intent was to look at myself as a means to understand and cope. I often relate the Biblical dialogue with God as a form of self-examination. My creative process is to manipulate my face in front of the mirror as I paint. First I completed several full-face portraits, then I began to focus on isolated facial features. In isolation my mouth is the agent of deep-felt emotions; my ears are monuments to compassionate listening; eyes question or witness. Because the paintings are done from life in a heightened state of emotion and concentration, the very specific observations of my facial features invoke empathy for myself and in the viewer. Instead of comparing my looks to the popular ideal I actually seek the specific, imperfect forms. It is in fact an artist's vision, by which artists scrutinize the physical world to understand what things are and how they are formed. This creative process is not unlike the traditional Torah Commentaries where the perception, investigation and understanding of both the word and the intention are primary.
These paintings all begin on a black gesso ground. The colors remain subdued with minimal value contrast. I am moved by the effects color creates; by the associations with nature and with human nature including the shadow side of thought and emotion. Through color the paintings invoke cultural memory and transcend the day to-day mundane reality we are ordinarily concerned with.