Slifka exhibit focuses on spring

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Photo by Jennifer Lu .

This week, a new exhibit at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale will usher viewers into the spring season.

“Spring Awaking,” an exhibit of cyanotypes — blue-colored prints made using a complicated chemical process — opens in the Slifka Center’s Allan and Leah Rabinowitz Gallery on Thursday. The prints, created by local artist Leah Caroline, explore ideas including nature, birth and religion. They will remain on view in the gallery until the end of April.

While Judaism is certainly present in her art and in her life, Caroline explained that she does not consider the religion an explicit inspiration for this exhibition.

“There is an element of religious influence, but it wasn’t intentional at first,” Caroline explained. “The Judaism just came in as I was working. It was a more intuitive, natural process for me.”

Caroline explained that the cyanotypes feature both images — of aloe leaves, other plants and of anatomical artist Jan van Rymsdyk’s womb engravings — and text, including her own writing and passages from the Song of Songs in the Hebrew bible. She explained that she created the cyanotypes by pressing negatives onto chemically treated paper, then exposing the paper to ultraviolet light and processing it in water. The result is a Prussian blue image on an otherwise white background.

The Song of Songs, which is traditionally read during Passover, relates to the rest of the nature-centric exhibit as it includes many descriptions of nature, particularly gardens, Caroline explained.

Lucy Partman ’14, the Slifka Arts Curator, explained that the religious elements of the exhibit are open to interpretation, adding that the idea of leaving winter to enter spring may be understood as a parallel to the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt, which the holiday of Passover commemorates. But Partman noted that the themes of the exhibit are universal, extending beyond Judaism and religion.

“Different people see different things in it,” Caroline said.

Chino Kwan, known as CHINO, Slifka’s Director of Operations, said he thinks that “Spring Awaking” underscores the Center’s increased presence as an undergraduate art resource. He explained that the new show adds to the comprehensive sampling of artistic media, ranging from painting to photography, that this year’s exhibits have displayed.

This Sunday, Slifka will host a free workshop to accompany the exhibit, and CHINO explained that this event showcases the Center’s commitment to include an interactive element in each of its exhibits. Workshop attendees will work with Caroline to learn the basic process of making cyanotypes and have the opportunity to make their own small cyan prints, Partman explained.

“We’re really excited about the workshop,” CHINO said. “It’s taking the arts programming out of the realm of the voyeuristic into the participatory.”

“Spring Awaking” will be Slifka’s final exhibit of the semester.

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