Ecumenical Vessel

Artist Talk--A Study in Conflict
Photos and talk by Dr. Zalman Amit
Friday, November 27
12:15 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. (Talk begins at 12:30, followed by Q&A)
AST Library
Light lunch available

Presentation Description (from the artist)
The photographs forming the basis of this presentation were taken over a period of two years in the Palestinian occupied territories. The period under study was the latter part of the Second Intifada (2003-2005). The project was a two fold affair. On one hand I intended to document life under a military occupation with all its cruelty and adversity. However, while concentrating on the job I began to realize that there is a great deal of beauty even in adversity and I became committed to the idea of documenting and recording it as well. My observations revealed that as time progresses people involved in the conflict undergo changes driven by the role they play in the conflict. On one hand, the soldiers enforcing the occupation become less and less compassionate.  On the other hand, as a great surprise to me, the people who are the subjects of the occupation seem to become more empathic and humane -- while at the same time becoming more angry. Not only the people undergo changes in this conflict; the land itself changes. The occupation inflicts significant wounds on the land and in the latter part of the project I tried to document this phenomenon as well. Thus, this presentation is dedicated to these aspects of a very difficult confrontation between two peoples. 

Dr. Zalman Amit is an artist, retired scientist (Concordia University) and avid peace activist.  He lives in Kingsburg, Nova Scotia.


Curatorial Statement

A functional object common to all ancient human civilizations, the vessel is also a ubiquitous symbol for the religions--from the 'singing bowls' of Buddhism to the 'chalice' of Christianity. It can embody great beauty, and it may be intellectually suggestive as well. While the original purpose of the vessel was undoubtedly utilitarian, it is such other layers of meaning that concern us in this exhibition of works by painter Lynn Rotin and wood-turner Zalman Amit.

Lynn Rotin began painting vessels eleven years ago. Attracted by the significance of the bowl for ancient peoples, Lynn understands it as "a metaphor for the body and a receptacle for emotion." But often her emphasis is just an "exercise in colour" or "the simple pleasure of putting brush to canvas and pushing paint around." And, indeed, her explorations in media - thick combinations of wax and paint, layered and incised - contribute to an experience of sheer aesthetic pleasure.

Zalman Amit, a former Professor of Psychology at Concordia University, began his wood-turning career in 1999. His bowls are unequivocally beautiful; his deep sensitivity to and respect for his materials are evident in the visual and tactile properties of his work. Delicate, and often intricately designed, these vessels are, for him, manifestations of possibilities dictated by the material itself. However, Amit admits that it is often difficult for him to appreciate beauty in his own work. He is swift to point out tiny defects or irregularities which--so he remarks--he might celebrate in the works of others!

Both artists deny any explicit or intended relationship between their art and their Jewish backgrounds. Rather, each confesses to being interested primarily in the formal aspects of his/her art and to working with the media intuitively. Metaphors arising from their art are secondary and have little or nothing to do with their religious backgrounds.

But for the viewer, all these things can enter into the process of meaning-making. Meaning for us is shaped in an interplay between the artist, his/her creation, and our response to it. These three together are necessary and sufficient conditions for an informed reception of art. Gone are the days of the artist-genius delivering a divine or didactic message, and happily more limited than they once were are interpretations grounded in the 'whatever it means to me' attitude. No, art is neither a case of the genius offering crumbs to lesser minds nor a free-for-all beyond 'culturally-imposed' standards. Art, like the products of many other disciplines, rewards wide-ranging experience and reflection with knowledge.

For this exhibition, therefore, the spectator is not asked to focus on the art of 'Jewish' artists with differing political views, or the relationship between 'Jewish' and 'Christian' art (topics which would both provide excellent fodder for academic study!). Nor is beauty or metaphor the only key to meaning. Rather, an exhibition such as this is best viewed as holding a rich and multi-faceted offering, which takes receptive viewers through a deep conversation born of aesthetic experience and brought to fullness in reflection.

-Regina Coupar, Exhibitions Director
Atlantic School of Theology Art Gallery