Practice, Practice

December 1, 2011
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Rachel Klinghoffer

For most of my career as a working artist, I have kept separate my personal sense of religion and my studio practice. Last fall, I began to reflect on this compartmentalization, exploring the relationship between my Jewishness and my approach to making art. This process of introspection suggested larger questions, and as I reflected on the connections, I realized that I refer to my artistic life as “my painting practice” and to my observance and relationship to Judaism as how I “practice Judaism.” There is more here than a sharing of words.

The laborious pro­cess of making an art object is compelling — perhaps bordering on devotional. For example, in “Untitled,” a piece of denim — an everyday textile that crosses cultural boundaries — is affixed to nails on the wall through grommets in the fabric. The image becomes dynamic because the denim fabric undulates. The fabric, familiar as it is, becomes mysterious as it is transformed into the painting’s background. My sense of Jewishness is also mysterious, intimate, home-based, ethereal — all reflected in this work.

“Seashell” is composed of an eclectic mix of collected objects, ranging from wallpaper samples to spray paint to vintage thrift store paintings. These ordinary materials from our consumerist culture are recontextulized as art; the piece becomes at once otherworldly, something ethereal and representational. This image is “in-between”; the shell gives itself up neither to being a shell nor to becoming the sea. Since the image as a whole is the essence of the seashell, it also lives as a compilation of individual components, each having the potential for its own life. As such, the piece lends itself to a variety of perspectives, depending on the observer’s viewpoint. This resonates with how I understand Jewish practice — a blending of traditional observance and experimentation within the framework of a larger Jewish context.

My artistic practice is indelibly linked to my Jewishness — not through the use of specific Jewish images, but by the way in which I view the world and how I artistically express that view.


Untitled mixed media 58.5" x 82"


Seashell mixed media 9" x 12"

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