By Shelley Werner
(AJNews) – The Jewish High Holy Days are accompanied by two explosions of artistic excellence in a double presentation at TBT Gallery at Temple B’nai Tikvah. Carole Bondaroff presents her etchings in dazzling tones evocative of the dramatic performances that inspired her, and Milt Fischbein presents his filigree designs for Judaica and jewellery in the glass showcase. Both shows are concurrent in the gallery space and viewers can meander through the space viewing the detail in both the intricate prints and small- scale silver works.
Curator Jennifer Eiserman explains, “TBT Gallery is thrilled to be able to share the work of these two highly regarded artists who are known internationally for their contributions to the respective art forms. While Bondaroff’s prints and Fischbein’s jewellery seem to very different, both artists find inspiration from the natural and Jewish worlds around them.”
“All the World’s a Stage” is a reference to Shakespeare, but in Carole’s work it refers to images of shows she has attended. They’re all created from sketching on site during a performance, which she then converts into an etching. This etching is an image made from a plate. She usually works on zinc, and the image is put on to the plate, cleaned and then printed onto paper.
“Basically, my drawings are done blindly because when you’re sitting in a performance you’re sitting in the dark. I’ve done musical events, opera, dance, ballet, and I have images as well from the little synagogue on the Prairie, which I feel is a bit of a performance in my life. What I am working on is a line drawing to which I add colour and texture.”
The works can be considered multimedia because of the embroidery, the textured paper and the water colour. She adds smaller embellishments and plates along the edges of the bottom. A lot of the pieces have a main image in the middle surrounded by side pieces to create a curtain effect like you would find in a stage.
“People remember my work, and relate to the subject matter,” says Bondaroff. “They enjoy connecting with the memories of having seen a show like “Phantom of the Opera” because it reminds them of that experience. I love having a musical element in my images and to represent the shows I have seen at Cirque du Soleil, and capture the makeup, the costumes and the movement.”
She was greatly impacted by the Calgary flood and her piece “Damaged by the Flood” gives a sense of the enormity of the loss that people experienced. The image shows the full moon and it has the map of downtown Calgary, which is a photo etching, cut in half down the middle in the same way that everyone’s lives were torn by the waters.
Her maternal grandparents were pioneers in Alberta, and “Children of the Wind” depicts a little synagogue on the prairie with the Rabbi, his wife and their seven children in the doorway. She put some smaller pieces along the bottom, almost like a frame to embellish it, in honour of her pioneer background, and the Jewish community in Calgary.
“The images all are about the drama of my life and my parent’s lives, and what they went through as immigrants and how lucky I’ve been not to be an immigrant. I’ve depicted these stories as stages, in multi-plate images that tell stories: the ‘performance of life’. The world’s a stage… we are all on a stage, it’s not a dress rehearsal. We’re here. Now.”
Milt Fischbein’s miniature masterpieces shimmer with an inner light as they capture the eye with fine detail and craftsmanship. They are mostly made of filigree, which is a style of metalsmithing or jewellery making that was developed close to 5000 years ago. Elements of filigree in jewellery came from Queen Puabi‘s tomb that was uncovered in Ur, which is part of historical Mesopotamia. It’s an ancient technique that features very fine twisted wires.
Milt graduated as a chemical engineer from McGill but has been working with precious metals for over 25 years. He uses techniques that have been used by filigree artists for many centuries. He is an educator who shares his knowledge through workshops and lectures. Milt’s filigree work is infused with a strong sense of history. While studying the art of filigree he became enchanted with the time-honoured tradition of the fabrication of filigree adornments in the Spanish, Moroccan and Yemeni Jewish trade communities.
He does a fair bit of teaching, both online and in person. Because of COVID he began the online aspect which continues even now. The works he is showing are filigree focusing on Yemenite flowers, celebrating the arrival of summer. There are bracelets, pendants, rings as well as Mezuzot in the showcase, some featuring pomegranate and Hamsa motifs.
“I got into filigree because I saw it in Malaysia in 1996 and I thought it was an amazing interesting technique and then eventually I started to learn how to make it myself. In North America there are very few makers of this art. I would call myself one of the very few North American filigree artists.”
Milt is very connected to the past and is cognizant of how his work connects through time to where filigree all began, so his sense of history is profound. What drives his work is precision and a passion for the process. He is a professional member of the Alberta Craft Council.
The double show is impressive because as one experiences the gallery space the large-scale prints are enhanced by the smaller works. They are well paired as they both are imbued with a sense of historical perspective, and artistic refinement. The New Year will be doubly welcomed by this dual show.
“All the World’s a Stage” and “Miniature Masterpieces” can be seen until September 26, 2023 at TBT Gallery, Temple B’nai Tikvah, 900 47 Ave SW, Calgary. Monday to Thursday 9:00 am to 4:00 pm/ Friday 9:00 am to 2:00 pm or by appointment with the artists: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Shelley Werner is the host of Art and Scroll Studio zoom series that celebrates the makers and creators of Judaica Art. Watch for the premier of Season 4 in the fall of 2023.