Graduating Artists’ Creativity on Display at Yeshiva University Museum
The eclectic assembly of art at the Yeshiva University Museum’s new and unique exhibition may surprise you.
In one corner, a mannequin wears a dress encrusted in a swirl of glass, feathers and beads, beside a model city whose gold-domed buildings recall a Temple-age Jerusalem. Stark photographs of a woman’s face and deep-hued oil paintings depicting Biblical scenes share wall space. That’s because the wide range of artwork in this show was created by an equally diverse group of artists—all graduating studio art majors at Stern College for Women.
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Called IMPRINT, the show is the second annual exhibition of senior students’ work, who served this year as both artists and curators of the show. “Every art student at Stern has made their own impression on the school,” explained Lauren Mintzer, SC ’11, who helped coordinate IMPRINT’s design with assistant studio art professor Traci Tullius. “We wanted to express that not only are we leaving our imprint behind, but this is really the first step on the greater journey of our careers as artists. IMPRINT highlights our individuality but also shows that bigger picture.”
At the show’s opening on May 25, the exhibit was flooded with friends, family, Stern arts faculty and members of the public who had come to admire the students’ creations. For Rachel Kupferman, SC ’11, whose immersive oil paintings confront issues of Jewish and universal self-identity, the experience was a rewarding culmination of her undergraduate experience. “Especially as an art student after four years, to have your work exhibited in a museum space just gives so much credit to the effort you put into it,” she said. “It feels like a very sophisticated and mature time in an artist’s life.”
Jacob Wisse, director of the Yeshiva University Museum and a professor of art history at Stern, felt the show’s homage to student work was well-earned. “We’re especially excited about IMPRINT because it demonstrates how the YU Museum serves as an outlet and resource for the talents and interests of our students and faculty, as well as reflecting the distinct character of the school,” he said, adding: “As an art historian, I’m impressed by the students’ creativity and range of work and by the degree to which they are engaged with substantive social and Jewish themes and issues.”
That engagement is evident in Kupferman’s painting, Viyater Yaakov Levado, which can be translated as ‘And Yaakov Struggled Alone.’ Inspired by the famous Biblical verse in which Jacob is said to struggle with an angel as his family flees his vengeful brother, the painting depicts an earthy figure in a dark landscape with his head in his hands, separated from a richer field by a narrow river. Kupferman was interested by the interpretation of the verse suggesting Jacob struggled with himself rather than an angel, confronting self-doubt and anguish. “I think that struggle can be applied in many situations,” she said. “For instance, I’m graduating college right now and am at a crossroads in life—what’s next? But it can also be on a grand scale: as Modern Orthodox people, how do we reconcile our past, our tradition, with this new and evolving modernity?”
For all of the student artists, IMPRINT was an opportunity to reflect on the warm, supportive community at Stern which fostered friendships in addition to creative growth. “I always felt like I had a very close relationship to my teachers and could go to them for anything,” said Michal Grun, SC ’11, whose work is a study of folds and color. “And you feed off the other students’ creativity and energy, sharing the same experiences, which makes a really exciting, unique environment.”
A highlight of Mintzer’s undergraduate experience was an art history course led by Wisse in Florence, Italy. “I definitely couldn’t have done that anywhere else without having to worry about aspects of my Jewish identity, kosher and Shabbos,” Mintzer said. “As part of a Stern course, I was really able to enjoy the environment and not feel pressured to do things that might go against my beliefs. It allowed me to be a part of the art world but also a part of the Jewish world.”
At IMPRINT’s opening, visitors were encouraged to leave their own mark on the exhibit, pressing ink imprints of their thumbs against a wall. The show, which will run through July 24, has already made its own impression on at least two visitors.
“My parents said, ‘It looks a lot different on a museum gallery wall than in our living room,” said Kupferman. For more information about IMPRINT, visit www.yumuseum.org.