By Shelley Werner
(AJNews) – As we enter into the winter season, a new show at TBT Gallery provides the warmth of intense colour and powerfully detailed designs. Sandy Blass’ watercolours are vibrant and joyous as her palette expresses her inner passions. Sarabeth Carnat’s jewellery and Judaica provide the perfect foil for these sweeping works as your eye is drawn into the intricate details.
Curator Jennifer Eiserman comments, “In these tumultuous times, when the war and rising antisemitism fills our consciousness, the beauty of art can remind us of the beauty that still exists in the world. Through her harmonious palettes and compositions, Blass’ work reminds us of the peace and beauty accessible to us in the natural world. Carnat’s innovatively designed Judaica and sensitively crafted jewelry demonstrates the beauty of our ancient traditions connecting us to each other throughout time, past, present and future.”
Carnat comments that the show is truly a glimpse of the work she has been doing for a very long time. Her career stretches back many years and the show gives a small window into the variety of things she has created. Some of the most important pieces are her Judaica work, including a Havdallah set she did for her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. The piercing of the top of the spice container is a prayer that allows the smell of the spices to escape.
There are other pieces in the show that are also deeply personal. She has created “Shelf Broaches” which appear to be tiny vignettes of figures in a residential setting. Although they can be worn as broaches, they also are miniature sculptures that can sit on a shelf, and appear to be small shelves themselves. “These works are important about relationships and people. They are specific to a frozen moment in time. The home we grew up in had a giant picture window and that window appears in a number of my pieces and is truly representative of the family home,” says Carnat.
There is another broach entitled “Entre Nous” (Between Us) in which five wires are used to join the two main parts. These represent the artist and her siblings. It’s about relationships, and the emotional interaction between these relationships. On careful inspection you can see the wires are held in tension. She intentionally built the broach to represent her parents and the five children in the family. She says that much of her art has been therapeutic as she articulates her feelings through her materials.
About jewelry she comments, “Jewelry is worn on the body so there is a big interaction between the wearer, the viewer and the maker. When a piece is worn on the body there is movement; bodies aren’t still.” One of the things she loves about her field is that it is vast. “I could work five lifetimes and still not know all there is to know about my field.”
Sandy Blass has entitled her show “Two Homelands” to reflect the affinity she feels to both Israel and Canada as her dual homes. The works in the show are all scenes she has seen personally, captured on her camera and reimagined in her studio. The colors become more vibrant as she brightens them up with multiple layers of paint. “I love playing with colour, wallowing in it when the brush is moving across the paper or the canvas. The intensity of the colour conveys the intensity of my feeling towards the subject. This reflects my intensity as a person.”
The paintings will sometimes go in directions that she didn’t plan. She will discover something in the process and the paint sometimes will “speak” to her and say “I’m going this way,” and then she follows along with it. Her hope is that on viewing her work people come away the message that painting is a spiritual process for her. She finds within it a way to express peace, joy, and love; she wants viewers to perceive this at a soul level when they contemplate the works.
The piece in the show entitled “Preparing for Shabbat” is based on an experience in the Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem. It was crowded with many orthodox Jews shopping in the stalls. “There was a man who was very intent on what he was doing and it was a very special so I just had to have his picture. When I got home, I realized I loved that moment, so private and personal and innocent, yet so very communal, because he and I were in it together.”
The approach to her art is highly personal and it’s very much a picture of her relationship with Hashem. She has a sense that he’s with her and that it is part of her calling and part of his journey for her. She says “it makes art unbelievably important to me; something I can’t live without, something I can’t stop doing; that he’s always urging me on to do more and so it requires a lot of listening and just being willing to stay the course. Regardless of how the career goes in practical terms I have to put out there what I know I’m supposed to put out there.”
Both artists are called to share their intense personal experiences of the materials, and their relationships, be they familial or spiritual. The sweeping areas of colour in Blass’ art are the perfect backdrop for the small scale but intense work by Carnat in the showcase.
“Reflections: A Glimpse into the Art of Sarabeth Carnat” and “Eretz: Two Homelands” by Sandy Blass can be seen until January 2, 2024 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 continuation of Season 4 in the winter 2024.