Jewish Artist: Rachel Feinstein and Women’s Lives

Rachel Feinstein, “Maiden, Mother, Crone”, exhibition curated by Kelly Taxter, Barnett and Annalee Newman, The Jewish Museum, New York, December 2020 – January 2021.

Rachel Feinstein’s art is defined by many dualities: the feminine and the masculine, the good and the bad, the precarious and the lasting, the useful and the useless.

To stage them they create other oppositions – for example between religion and fairy tales, the “high” European art and the more kitschy art of America. She also explores these conflicts through borrowings from biblical and popular culture as well as with objects that she deconstructs in order to “re-image” them, suggesting that there is no reality without fiction, no light without shadow and no placid balance without chaos.

It uses various methods and materials. Three-dimensional pieces evolve towards a two-dimensional presence through various kinds of models in wood, ceramic, metal. The trace of such hand-created objects emerges in a monochromatic palette. But, alongside them, she proposes polychromic figures painted as if they were – and conversely – 3D figurations.

The artist also installs elements that are presented on a theatre curtain, a video or a painted wall. This work is closely related to performance. Feinstein positions herself as both subject and object of the vision. She thus follows a myriad of question lines in which the problem of feminism is central. She creates careful examinations of the spread of such a concept in culture. The female protagonists proliferate in such a corpus and its various mediums.

As for the title of the exhibition, it underlines the three “states” in which women are confined from their youth to their old age within the dominant culture. But these three situations give women an accumulation of knowledge. So much so that the creator struggles for a “neo-paganism” in which the female figure would descend a triple divinity: young girl, mother and old person – in which past and present, inexperience and wisdom, fragility and power are combined. All closely intertwined.

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