EASTON — “Jewish Art in Response to Newtown…,” a collection of contemporary carvings by Harvey Paris, is on display at Easton Public Library through June 30. The exhibit features 20 carvings inspired by Newtown, Peace in the Middle East, the Holocaust and Jewish tradition.
The library will host an artist’s reception and talk, open to the public, on Thursday, May 29, from 6 to 8 pm.
The show features two carvings created in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings. “Newtown 26, 2012” is the artist’s attempt to give meaning to the tragedy. It was created by removing 26 cuts of wood from the center of a wooden plate and then rearranging them on the perimeter. The carving is meant to symbolize the hopes, the unfulfilled aspirations and the tragedy that Newtown has come to represent.
There is also a Newtown Tzedakah (charity) Box, which pairs the events of Newtown with more traditional Jewish motifs.
Prominent in many carvings are various representations of the seven species of vegetation in the land of Israel as described in the Bible. These fruits and grains are used in multiple pieces dealing with both Peace in the Middle East and the Holocaust. Many of the carvings were recently featured as part of a recent Holocaust Memorial program.
Rounding out the exhibit are traditional ritual items such as tzedakah or charity boxes, etrog boxes for the Holiday of Sukkot, mezuzah cases to be affixed to door posts, and mizrachs to be placed on Eastern walls. These pieces are functional and are carved with traditional motifs to recount Jewish history and values. Some of the symbols used are the tree of life, the menorah, the Star of David, the Ten Commandments and the crown of torah. Additionally, many of the carvings include English, Hebrew and Arabic.
Mr Paris, a Fairfield resident, has studied carving with Wayne Barton since 2006. Mr Barton, recognized as the seminal figure in North American chip carving, considers Mr Paris to be “the premiere Jewish chip carver” practicing the art. Chip carving derives its name from the technique of removing chips from the wood’s surface to create a design. It is done completely with a hand-held knife. Much of Mr Paris’s inspiration comes from studying Jewish paper cuts and Torah ornaments dating back to the 18th Century.
Mr Paris created the Newtown pieces in part to highlight awareness of the serious lack of community mental health services. As the co-director of Jewish Family Service in Bridgeport, he saw firsthand how services have been cut to the point that many individuals with severe mental health issues are falling through the cracks.
Mr Paris is offering “Newtown 26, 2012” to the highest bidder in an online auction that continues, like the exhibition, until June 30. He has promised to donate all proceeds from the sale of the work to support local mental health services. Auction instructions can be viewed online at www.JewishCarving.com.
Easton Public Library is at 691 Morehouse Road; call 203-261-0134 or visit EastonLibrary.org for additional information including regular hours.