“As an artist and human in the world, I think a lot about the sacred and the profane, and about the holy fool. Provocation, joy and grief play major roles in my work. I work to enable myself and viewers to access difficult, awkward and sometimes unexpected emotional spaces within familiar stories and themes.” – Arielle Stein
“Bewitching the Dybbuks” is an overview of several bodies of work. The show span the following sub-themes: monsters, holy/unholy space, Torah stories, and fruit. The title of this show relates to Stein’s deep interests in Jewish and Yiddish mythology and culture, as well as feminist thought and practice. Traditionally, dybbuks are spirits that possess people, almost always women and can serve as explanations or causes for uncharacteristic, lewd, demented and other “non-ideal” behaviors.
The title “Bewitching the Dybbuks” serves as an inversion of the traditional narrative, and as a claiming of power as an artist at Stein’s intersections. The use of the term bewitching is intended to reclaim sexuality in contrast to how it has been erased and deployed as a weapon throughout time and space. By bewitching a possessor, the subject may be able to assert agency through means at their disposal. Last, dybbuks often contain an element of humor, which Stein highly values and aims to bring into her work when possible.
Looking at Jewish heritage and iconography from the feminist viewpoint, Stein challenges the viewer to reckon with age old stories from a new and feminine empowered perspective. Depictions of women and androgynous forms in situations unapologetic in their intensity, sexuality, and rawness greet the viewer and become an invitation to each visitor to reflect on these themes within themselves and within our greater society.
Stein’s exhibition is a strong display of feminism and is intended for the audience to have to sit down with her work and digest it. This exhibition will challenge the audience to think about both female and non-normative bodies in a more critical fashion, whether it is challenging patriarchal standards or embracing how androgyny is an important aspect of the body.
Pulling from various bodies of work, this exhibition covers the last six years of Stein’s practice. The evolution in her style and her handling of imagery is reflected in the changing of her materials. Moving from oil pastel on watercolor paper to ink on Yupo paper, Stein collaborates with her materials letting them speak for themselves in presentation. With larger than life depictions of bodies on paper, the sheer size of certain pieces act as a call to the viewer to feel their own physical body in space. The intimacy of the smaller, more playful works, sound a different note and add to the overall musicality of the exhibition.
Come check out the exhibit again or for the first time, while it is still up in the Schmidt Gallery until August 5, 2018. Located on 201 Washington Street, Reading, PA 19601, GoggleWorks has free, onsite parking and is open 9am-9pm daily. More information can be found at goggleworks.org or by calling 610.374.4600.
Contributor: Julie Stopper