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  • Light’s Reentry:Life, Art, Biblical Text
  • Chana Cromer (bio)

It is a time of accounting. You reach this age, and that is natural. But it was rather a year of health challenges that led me to the reckoning that became “Illumination,” my latest solo exhibit, held at the synagogue my late husband Gerald and I helped to found in the late 1970s, Kehillat Yedidya in Jerusalem (Figures 1–3). I looked back at the former textures and colors of my artistic life and rearranged them to interpret the year, to express light’s re-entry.

There is a thread in my work. On the one hand, I have been working since 1983 with collage and assemblage. This became two series of works and my first two one-person shows, “Paper Landscapes” (1986) and “The Discarded Object” (1987, Figure 4).

On the other hand, I have expressed my personal experiences through biblical text in the medium of textile. My first major piece of this kind was “The Distaff Side” (“She stretches out her hand to the distaff, and her palms hold the spindle”—Prov. 31:19), done in 1991 for the “Woman of Valor” exhibit at Yeshiva University Museum (Figure 5). I dedicated this work to Evelyn Cromer, my mother-in-law, who had died the year before. She was a master of “womanly” arts—embroidery, crochet, sewing—as expressed in the assemblage of her materials and tools incorporated into the work.

Since 1991, alongside drawings, I have worked mainly in textiles, using dyeing, silk-screening, painting and appliqué techniques. Eight years ago, I returned to the medium of collage and painting on canvas. Nine months after I lost my beloved Gerald, I started a series of small collage and acrylic canvases that drew upon details of photos I had taken of him over the years. My memories of him were blocked after his death. Struggling, I sought a visual way to reconnect. Does the photo tell the truth more than the paint? Or can the paint evoke the texture of past times? Does the whole photo tell the story, or can a detail be isolated and speak in a new, direct way? I haven’t ever exhibited these works, but they began my use of collage and paint to express something between what is seen and what is remembered (Figure 6).

I continued using this technique of paint and collage on canvas to work on other subjects. When spring came to the Carmel in 2011 after the terrible fire the year before, the black branches of the scorched trees swam in riotous greens and fields of wildflowers. That was the inspiration for the exhibit Renewal in 2012 (Figure 7). For me, it symbolized a kind of rebirth after losing my husband. I wrote then: [End Page 109]

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Figure 1.

Light of Prophecy (2015). Dyes painted on silk shantung and changeant. 75 × 200 cm.

[End Page 110]

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Figure 2.

First Light (2014–2016). Dyes painted on silk shantung, silk-screened in metallic pigments, brocade, satin, organza, stitching. 70 × 130 cm.

[End Page 111]

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Figure 3.

Light of Dreams (2014–2016). Dyes painted on various silks and cottons, silk-screened in metallic pigments, stitching. 90 × 300 cm.

[End Page 112]

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Figure 4.

Beit Yanai 1 (1983). Oil and assemblage on canvas. 50 × 76 cm.

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Figure 5.

The Distaff Side (1991), detail. Silk-screen, painting, wood, assemblage on China silk. 90 × 110 cm.

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Figure 6.

Hands 1 and Hands 10 (2009). Acrylic and photo collage on canvas. 15 × 15 cm each.

[End Page 114]

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Figure 7.

After the Forest Fire (2011). Acrylic and photo collage on canvas. 60 × 40 cm.

It happensA magical trick of natureAlmonds surprise us sparkling white in a bare landscape one sunny cold morningSuddenly the charred branches of a ravaged forest swim in lime and emeraldgrasses and red poppiesAnd so caught...


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pp. 109-125
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