Brooklyn Artist Retraces Ancient Jewish Threads

Gail Rothschild. "Dead Sea Scroll Linen I, 2013."

Gail Rothschild. “Dead Sea Scroll Linen I” (2013). Acrylic on Linen

The Three Fates famously spin, measure, and cut cosmic threads, which makes one of literature’s greatest scenes even more poignant in its reversal of that natural order. Penelope ingeniously outwits suitors hoping to usurp her husband Odysseus’s role when he doesn’t return from the Trojan War. Suspecting that her husband still lives, Penelope promises the nogoodniks eating and drinking away her estate that she will select a husband only after completing a mourning shroud. Each night, however, she surreptitiously unweaves the day’s work.

The deconstructionist act of unweaving is exactly how Brooklyn-based artist Gail Rothschild came to see her work after exhibiting four or five major sculptures a year at museums and universities across the country for years. Her projects, she says, tended to address the environment or feminist or labor history, and she tailored each piece for the particular community it was made for. But she came to question whether her views on art and social activism were correct and decided to seek answers in temporary solitary confinement in her studio — which, among other things, placed her on a path that would lead to mining Jewish history.

My article “Brooklyn Artist Retraces Ancient Jewish Threads” appears in the Jewish Daily Forward.

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