Laurie Wohl‘s BIRDS OF LONGING: EXILE and MEMORY
Exhibition Opening: Wednesday, September 11th – 5:30pm to 8pm; Artist talk with Laurie Wohl at 6pm
On View: Through Thursday, October 10th; Monday through Friday, 10am to 5pm
To arrange for a special group showing: Please contact Donna Gerard at email@example.com.
FREE and open to all!
My current project – “Birds of Longing: Exile and Memory” – interweaves Muslim, Jewish, and Christian poetry and spiritual texts from the Spanish Convivencia with those of contemporary Middle Eastern poets, particularly Palestinian, Syrian and Israeli. In this project, I emphasize the striking parallels between Arabic and Hebrew texts, both rich in the poetry of spiritual love, with common themes of exile, nostalgia for Andalusia, poetry referencing Old and New Testament texts and the Qu’ran, and poetry speaking of mistrust of enemies, yearning for reconciliation.
The catalyst for “Birds of Longing” was the shocking events of September 11, 2001, events that continue to resonate with us. In the years after September 11th, many non-Muslim Americans paid real attention to Islam for the first time. For me, seeing that many Muslims were demonized, and that Americans in general had very little understanding of Islam, I looked for a way to suggest that art can be used to mediate at the intersection of faith and politics.
We are in a time of heartbreaking tragedy – when once again people fleeing persecution and violence are denied refuge. As the situation in the Middle East spirals downward, and xenophobia is encouraged in our own country, I believe it is all the more important to encourage continuing interfaith/multicultural conversations.
An audio component is integral to the project and consists of readings in English, Arabic, and Hebrew of the portions of the poems and spiritual texts contained in the Unweavings. The texts are then interwoven in a specially-composed to illustrate the commonality of the Middle Eastern languages. Using prepared iPods, viewers are able to activate tracks relating to specific pieces as they move around the exhibit.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Fiber artist Laurie Wohl is internationally known for her unique Unweavings®, liturgical projects, and interfaith message. Her works, recognized by the AIA Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture, and by the Surface Design Association, are held in the collections of the Museum of Arts and Design, American Bible Society, Constitutional Court of South Africa, Catholic Theological Union, and numerous other public and private collections. Her works have been on long-term loan to the United States Embassies in Beirut, Vienna, Tunis, Cape Town, and Pretoria.
Major liturgical projects include The Psalms Project (12 pieces – Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago) and the Talbot Bible Stoles Project (4 pieces – Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, NYC), as well as pieces for Monmouth Reform Temple (NJ), Central Presbyterian Church (Atlanta), and First Presbyterian Church (Durham, NC). In 2003, Ms. Wohl received the Honor Design Award for The Psalms Project, from the AIA Interfaith Forum. The 2010 Award of Excellence was given to “Prayer” by the Surface Design Association. “Window of Prayers” received first place in the Liturgical and Sacred Art 2014 exhibition, “Will There Be Enough Justice?” received best of show in the that 2016 exhibition, and “Kol Adonai” received second place in the 2018 exhibition.
In 2011 and 2013, Wohl received grants from the Center for Arts, Religion & Education, and the Surface Design Association for her interfaith project – ”Birds of Longing: Exile and Memory” – which relates poetry from the Convivencia to contemporary Middle Eastern poetry in the context of her Unweavings® fiber art pieces. “Birds of Longing” is traveling through Fall 2019 to various educational and interfaith venues in California, Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Indiana, Texas, Virginia, Washington D.C., Minnesota, and North Carolina.
Wohl has curated a number of interfaith and multi-cultural exhibitions, including “With Many Voices” (Fourth Presbyterian Church) and “Art from Soweto” (Catholic Theological Union). Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, she has given a series of lectures and workshops in Soweto, Johannesburg, and Pretoria, South Africa. She speaks frequently on art and worship, text and textile. Among her special projects have been interactive set designs for full-length dance pieces by Callince Dance (NYC) and Jan Erkert & Dancers (Chicago). Call to Worship, Fiberarts, Surface Design Journal, and Seminary Ridge Review, among other publications and catalogues, have featured her Unweavings®. Wohl’s work is discussed in Ori Soltes’ 2016 book “Tradition and Transformation: Three Millennia of Jewish Art and Architecture.”Her exhibition history goes back to 1989. Ms. Wohl lives and works in New York City.