Exhibition Dates: June 8th -July 13th                                                                                                                                                                         
Opening Reception: Saturday, June 8th 2024 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Tamar Hendel Gallery, Create Arts Center, Downtown Silver Spring
 
Explore the unique works of Etai Rogers-Fett and meet the artist at our opening reception. Don’t miss this opportunity to immerse yourself in a captivating collection of artist books and prints.
 
Bring your friends and enjoy a wonderful afternoon of art and creativity!

ARTIST INFORMATION

Artist Bio: 

I am a printmaker, judaica artist, and arts educator living on Piscataway land in Maryland. I spend most of my time at the intersection of two very alive cultures that are sometimes assumed to be “dead” – print and Yiddish. I found my way to printmaking through historical research encounters with print culture. In the process of writing about how the Yiddish press documented and shaped political movements in Eastern Europe between 1900-1939, I was moved by the nexus of relationships between writers, artists, technicians, and a mobilized reading public. Today, my printmaking work explores a set of related themes: 1) What is the unique role and potential of printmaking in political education and organizing? 2) How does the physical space of the printshop lend itself as a collaborative meeting space for writers, artists, and activists? 3) What is the unique visual language of Yiddish? 4) How does the interplay of image and expressive typography in Yiddish print culture bridge the gap between Jewish textual and oral traditions? These questions animate my artistic practice as printmaking allows me to tell and remix familiar and unknown cultural stories, often weaving together archival research, folktales, oral histories, and speculative imagining. 

I engage with ritual in my practice as acts of repetition, transmission, and transformation. I understand these qualities to be the connective marrow between storytelling and time-intensive craft traditions like printmaking. Printmaking, like telling a good story, requires you to be attentive and present. When I create work inspired by tekhines (Yiddish women’s prayers) or papercut amulet traditions, I think about the labor of my hands paying respect and connecting me to the lineage of those reference points. Often this work involves the double ritual of honoring that inheritance while also reimagining it to be relevant to and inclusive of the experiences of my queer and trans diasporic Jewish community today. I love to imagine that this gesture is mirrored in the act of printmaking and storytelling, which opens room for generative iteration. While much of much of my work engages Jewish history, my intention in doing so is not to memorialize or romanticize a stable narrative of the past, but to think more intentionally about how we carry this past today and what we choose to transmit to future generations. 

Artist Statement – Veln Di Verter Oykh Nern (The Words Will Also Nourish) 

Veln Di Verter Oykh Nern (The Words Will Also Nourish) is a body of work that I created between Fall 2023 and Spring 2024, as part of a joint fellowship with Yale’s Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies and In Geveb Journal of Yiddish Studies. The artist book and twelve accompanying prints respond to Paja L’s Yiddish testimony about her experiences as a young woman, teacher, and library worker in the Vilna Ghetto in Lithuania. I was drawn to working with Paja’s story, which she recorded in 1990, because her roles at the intersection of caregiving and culture-making interested me as an arts educator thinking about how we teach young students amidst multiple crises. The prints featured in this show situate Paja’s testimony amongst broader narratives of cultural resistance in the Vilna Ghetto, drawing on both Paja’s direct quotes and supplementary historical documents including cultural event posters from the Vilna Ghetto. The title of my artist book and this show comes from Vilna Yiddish writer Avrom Sutzkever’s poem, Kerndlekh veyts (Grains of Wheat), where he reflects on efforts to hide and preserve Yiddish books in the Vilna ghetto through the metaphor of grains of wheat buried in a coffin until they bloom again in the future. 

Vilna, in Yiddish, or Vilnius is located in what is mapped today as Lithuania, and historically was a contested space which many nation-state borders crossed. My personal connection to Vilna was solidified in Summer 2013 when I spent time there as part of a Yiddish arts fellowship and language program. During this time I became intimate with pre-war Jewish Vilna, present and hovering always at the edges of the present-day city. You might tell Vilna’s story as a history of books: the famous Strashun library – one of the first Jewish public libraries in Europe, the Romm family’s printing house, and the many organized and autonomous efforts to smuggle and hide Yiddish books under Nazi rule. There is a rich history of resistance in Vilna, on every possible level, ranging from all forms of cultural and spiritual resistance to direct armed confrontation against the fascist regime. Paja’s testimony of Vilna speaks powerfully to how cultural transmission and cultural organizing act as a re-humanizing mechanism, a refusal of the dehumanization that exists across genocidal and colonial projects that often compare people to animals in order to justify their oppression and murder. The voices of Palestinians in Gaza have been extremely present for me while I spent time with Paja’s testimony over the course of producing this work. These prints are my offering to a scholarship of the Holocaust that honors Jewish resistance and attempts to process the immense loss of the Holocaust by insisting on the value of life, by recognizing that genocide and dehumanization of any people devalues all our lives, and by taking action today guided by this knowledge. 

Artist Website: www.tsukunst.com