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Jacqueline Nicholls, England
Parshat V'Zot Habracha
Jacqueline Nicholls is a London-based fine artist and Jewish educator. She uses her art to explore traditional Jewish ideas concepts in untraditional ways. After graduating from Architecture School, she learnt at Nishmat — a women's yeshiva in Jerusalem. She studied Fine Art at the Byam Shaw, London. Her work has been exhibited in the UK, Israel, and the States. www.jacquelinenicholls.com
Reflections on Being a Jewish Woman Artist
I am a London-based fine artist who uses art to explore and challenge traditional Jewish ideas in untraditional ways. I have used many different media and craft techniques — drawings, print, embroidery, tailoring, paper-cutting, knitting — to express the concepts.
I also teach in adult Jewish education, and my art has been a bringing together of the art studio and the beit midrash (traditional Jewish place of study and learning). In the artwork I will often quote the texts that have inspired, challenged and motivated me to form a response. The text may be a starting point for the work, but while I am working the thoughts develop as my hands are busy with the process of making. And from this very hands-on engagement I will often arrive at a different understanding of the text.
The texts and ideas that have most inspired me have been those which deal with the sanctity of individual human life, that we are all created in the image of God b'zelem Elokim. And how clothing is used as signifier of that individual identity.
I was inspired to use embroidery in my work partly from an exhibit at the Israel Museum titled "Aiyshet Chayil", which was a collection of historic needlework from various synagogues. EnglandThis was the women’s contribution to communal life. The more prominent male cantors and rabbis who would have been in close contact with these pieces are long dead, now silent. Yet these women's work is still there to be appreciated today.
A large part of my work has also been to examine the tradition from my contemporary, feminist, perspective. I question the traditional roles that women are expected to fulfill. Through the arena of my artwork I can be thoughtfully challenging and confrontational, and explore the text that is both my intellectual inheritance and alienating from my female standpoint.