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  • ANCESTRAL MINDSCAPES

    Location: Toronto, ON

    Ancestral Mindscapes is an autobiographical collaboration using video, sound and photography to explore..
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  • Clay Tile Workshop

    Location: Edmonton, AB

    Participants will be working with clay to hand-build tiles using a variety of..
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  • Edible and Medicinal Gardening Lecture

    Location: Edmonton, AB

    Ukrainian settlers brought with them a wide range of traditional knowledge and practices,..
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  • Acrylic Painting for Beginners

    Location: Edmonton, AB

    Do you want to create a bright & beautiful acrylic landscape in one..
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  • Willow Heart Weaving Workshop

    Location: Edmonton, AB

    Willow Heart Weaving Workshop In this workshop, participants will learn how to trim and..
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  • New Craft Coalition: Call to Artists

    Location: Calgary, AB

    New Craft Coalition, invites applications from all mid-career and professional artists to be..
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  • Invisible by PAINTER8

    Location: Edmonton, AB

    Please join us at PAINTER8, and other Edmonton art lovers alike, for the..
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  • 19th Annual Stouffville Studio Tour

    Location: Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville, ON

    The 19th Annual Stouffville Studio Tour is an event you don’t want to..
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  • Wheat Centrepiece Workshop

    Location: Edmonton, AB

    Join this class to learn how to make a didukh-style centrepiece that can..
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  • Radio Silence

    Location: Quebec city, QC

    Québec, August 19, 2019 – Folie/Culture invites all those who express themselves through..
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  • LOOK AGAIN!

    Location: Saskatoon, SK

    LOOK AGAIN! PAINTINGS BY KATHLEEN SLAVIN AND GAIL PRPICK AT UNIVERSITY..
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  • Watercolour Workshop with Frank Townsley

    Location: Vancouver, BC

    Sunday 22nd September 10.00 AM - 5.00 PM ..
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  • Figureworks 2019

    Location: Ottawa, ON

    Figureworks 2019 Call for Artists The call for submissions to the 10th annual juried..
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  • Quasi-Nature

    Location: Montreal, QC

    Archive Contemporary Art Gallery is pleased to present Quasi-Nature, a group exhibition curated..
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  • National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society 2019 Fall Online International Exhibition

    Location: Windsor, ON

    The National Oil & Acrylic Painters’ Society (NOAPS) invites oil and acrylic painters..
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  • Unsettling Nature

    Location: Toronto, ON

    An Exhibition at: The Garage Gallery Benmiller with Artists Jill Price, Leslie Putnam, Morag Webster..
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  • Through the Eyes of a Child

    Location: CALGARY, AB

    Artists Statement: Ed Flanagan My wife had a career as an elementary school..
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  • Exposition solo Lac-Mégantic

    Location: Lac-Mégantic, QC

    L'eau, une mine d'Art du 8 juillet au 8 septembre 2019..
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  • Sustainable Fashion Designer Looking for Studio Space in Mississauga

    Location: Mississauga, ON

    Hi, I'm Amanda, I am an emerging fashion designer starting my business designing..
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  • 32 Points- 32 Voices: A Compass of Peace

    Location: Toronto, ON

    32 Points - 32 Voices: A Compass of Peace International Exhibition September 6-27, 2019 Cedar Ridge..
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Phyllis Serota: Memory, Prayer, Celebration

By Robert Amos November 29, 2004

} Phyllis Serota: Memory, Prayer, Celebration - 20 years of Jewish Art By Robert Amos at the Wings of Peace Gallery, 1461 Blanshard Street, 382-0615. The exhibition is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 1 pm until November 20. In this age when the definition of art embraces out-of-focus video loops created for a institutional audiences, Phyllis Serota finds satisfaction in an old strategy. She paints narrative pictures for an audience which knows her personally. Her art delves into themes of her personal experience, her family’s history and the life of the Jewish community of which she is part. Simchat Torah, 2003, acrylic on canvas Serota has developed al oyal following in 30 years of work in Victoria. Solo exhibitions of her work have drawn acclaim at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the University of Victoria and Open Space. Her fans anticipate the annual Valentine’s Day show in her studio in James Bay. Currently the Wings of Peace Gallery at Temple Emmanu-El (... Blanshard Street) presents a collection of old and new work specifically and profoundly relating to Serota’s Jewish heritage and faith. “Memory, prayer and celebration:” Serota told me, “one of the purest places that I come from is my heritage. It seems to be quite a pure and easy place.” Her view of Jewish life is not dogmatic, nor is it didactic. Her goal is to share with us some of her most meaningful experiences. Hebrew School, 2002-04, acrylic on canvas Serota’s family came from the Ukraine and settled in Chicago. The core of this show depicts her young life. Her parents made a loving home life, which the artist represents as a dinner table with wine, candles and the holy book. All is illuminated by starlight and moonlight pouring through the window. A large portrait of Serota’s father presents him bound with the bands of tephilim, preparing himself for prayer. We looked at a recent painting of children in Hebrew school, in which an unkempt and distracted teacher smoked and held forth. Rabbi Harry Brechner stopped by and reminded us that, when Serota was a student in the late 1940’s, it was often concentration camp survivors who were given jobs in the Hebrew schools. Rabbi Brechner himself is not at all “old school”. He’s a dynamic and open-minded leader who has brought new vitality to Victoria’s oldest Jewish congregation. The next painting shows the Simchat Torah ceremony. This takes place in a darkened synagogue in which young girls parade with candles, apples and flags. This was the one day of the year when the women were permitted into the “family synagogue” of Serota’s youth. Aside from the history encoded in the image, it is a painting of striking colour and composition. A dominant motif in this exhibit is dancing. Men with long sidelocks wear the special regalia of the Chassidic Jews, for whom dancing in ecstasy is part of the religious observation. “It’s part of their relationship to God and prayer,” Serota informed me. In other images, lines of men and women join with arms on one another’s shoulders. The music of Fiddler On the Roof comes to my mind. On the Table, 1999, acrylic on paper “My family loved to dance,” she continued. “I’ve probably told you about my Aunt Molly. She’s in every one of my paintings of dancers. At a Bar Mitzvah party maybe three musicians would be playing quietly in the background while everyone ate dinner. All of a sudden, Aunt Molly would get up and dance - by herself - dance all around the room. She was a big woman, and she held herself proudly. It happened a number of times and it was just about the most thrilling thing about my childhood.” A defining feature of the Serota style is her careful graduation of tone from light to dark which creates a luminous effect. I suggested to her that this light, which pervades her world of memory, is a metaphor for the divine spirit - moonlight, starlight, candlelight or simply the light which shines from within each believer. Serota thought this over and seemed to agree. “My first memories are about light,” she replied. “Light streaming through a window with the dust motes dancing; a patch of sunshine on a wall.” She continued to muse. “Light and love,” she murmured - the subject matter of her art. The consummation of these explorations is a large self-portrait. Serota, with running shoes and wristwatch, strides purposefully forward. She seems oblivious to the four protecting angels which surround her. Rabbi Brechner had mentioned the angels to Serota when she was facing a personal challenge. She thought that if she took these words and made a visual image of them, then she would come closer to understanding the teaching. Four Angels, 2004, acrylic on canvas It looks like a picture of joy and strength, but that’s not how the artist sees it. “I have a real sadness, because I’m not aware of these protectors 99.99 % of the time,” she said. Of course, the angels don’t mind. Perhaps this visualization will help the artist to realize their presence more frequently in the future. The exhibit doesn’t evangelize - “Jews don’t believe in that,” Serota pointed out. And while it offers insight, it doesn’t explain the details of Jewish ceremony. These paintings simply witness a life of love and sharing, an offering from an artist to her community. (You can views the show on-line at www.congregation-emanu-el.org/about/gallery.php and visit the artist’s site at www.phyllisserota.com) ___________________________________________ Copyright © 2004Robert Amos Robert Amos is an artist and art writer who lives in Victoria, B.C.. He can be contacted by e-mail and you can view his paintings at www.robertamos.com