Diane Samuels is the winner of the design competition for artwork to be mounted on the main wall in the Great Hall of the Center for Jewish History. She has created several projects that deal with language, text and context, using the letters of the alphabet to create alternative approaches to communication, both between ordinary people and as a link to the Divine.
The work presented in this show includes selections from exhibitions in Germany, Slovakia, Poland, and the United States, where Samuels has worked for long periods with communities and individuals developing series of interrelated pieces in a historically charged context, which she calls “projects.” These projects seek to bridge the gap of time and meaning between the original events and the memory of those events. While they have a highly formal character, they still have an emotional chore.
In the course of researching the historical background of her work, Samuels made use of the collections of both the Leo Baeck Institute and YIVO. Some of the Leo Baeck Institute materials she reviewed are presented in this exhibition as well as some background materials for other projects.
The pieces themselves are rooted in Samuels’ ongoing attempt to explore the contemporary meaning of Jewish folktales that interrelate prayer, the alphabet, language, creative power, and a sense of being. A theme common to all these otherwise diverse works is the premise that the world can be experienced as a book.
Thus, as Samuels wrote in her proposal for the Great Hall commission to the Center for Jewish History, “Insofar as we make this book together and assert meaning to its making, to live in the world is, thus, inevitably to be both a reader and a writer.”
September 12 – November 3, 2002 at Leo Baeck Institute