Fragility of Life and Peace Echoed in Israeli Artist’s Intricate Glass Flowers
NORFOLK, VA. (July 1, 2021) – The Chrysler Museum of Art will present 25 nature-inspired artworks, including glass, mixed-media sculptures and screenprints, in If You Thirst for a Homeland: Flame-worked Glass by Dafna Kaffeman. The works by the renowned Israeli artist will be on view Aug. 12–Dec. 12, 2021. The traveling show is organized by the Chrysler Museum and co-curated with the Cleveland Israel Arts Alliance, a program of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. The exhibition will travel to Cleveland and open at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s Roe Green Gallery in spring 2022.
Dafna Kaffeman creates exquisitely crafted plant replicas from glass using the bench-top technique of flameworking, or lampworking. These botanical specimens reflect the natural world of the artist’s homeland. Each plant has its own environmental, cultural, historical or religious significance that the artist draws upon to craft a poignant message about violence and the fragility of human life.
Kaffeman’s art draws its impact from layers of symbolism and perceived meaning about life in modern Israel and Palestine. “The accuracy of her glass plant replicas is beautiful and astonishing, although the symbolism of each individual plant species is not at all obvious,” notes Carolyn Swan Needell, Ph.D., the Chrysler Museum of Art’s Carolyn and Richard Barry curator of glass. “Despite this, it is still satisfying somehow to know that there is something behind the artist’s choice of each particular plant, and that there is a symbolic language waiting to be decoded with some determined digging.”
More readily apparent in Kaffeman’s work is a basic analogy that likens plants to humans. Plants may be native and non-native to a place, and they can be rooted and uprooted; plants can be hardy, but they are also vulnerable and easily damaged.
In some of Kaffeman’s artworks, the glass plants are combined with Hebrew and Arabic words printed or embroidered on soft white fabric, including handkerchiefs, which are often associated with Jewish cultural practices of celebration, commemoration, sacrifice and mourning. The Hebrew and Arabic script will likely be unfamiliar to many viewers, thus presenting another layer with the potential to be deciphered and interpreted. The phrases Kaffeman selects include quotations pulled directly from Israeli newspaper articles, many of which describe violent acts from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “I think it makes a difference whether such incidents are forgotten or instead remain in our memories,” Kaffeman explains.
Other artworks incorporate written excerpts from field manuals of local plants, including the poetic line from a 1956 guide published in Hebrew: “If you thirst for a homeland and seek shelter in its bosom, love it and live in its mountains and valleys, its flora and fauna.” Kaffeman uses the English translation of the Hebrew and Arabic phrases as the titles for the individual artworks.
In addition to flameworked glass and mixed-media pieces, the exhibition will also include works on paper. Kaffeman identifies herself broadly as an artist, rather than specifically as a glass artist, and works in several mediums. She has recently turned to printmaking to further extend her artistic meditation on nature, culture and conflict in the region of her home. Some of her most recent creations, two large silkscreen prints and three smaller prints, will be exhibited.
Debra Yasinow, director of The Cleveland Israel Arts Connection, a program of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, says their organization “is thrilled to partner with the Chrysler Museum of Art to present the works of contemporary Israeli glass artist Dafna Kaffeman to American audiences.”
Exhibition co-curator Trudy Wiesenberger of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland says Kaffeman’s works first came to her attention in 2019. “I was moved by her craftsmanship and struck by the symbolism and sentiment of her work. To be born and live in a country you love, always on the brink of war, speaks of the fragility of the medium Dafna has chosen. Beautiful, fragile, delicate—handle with great care.”
The resurgence of intense violence in the spring of 2021 is a stark reminder of the ongoing struggle between the Israeli and Palestinian people, which centers upon the very land that both peoples seek to call home. In the current climate, Kaffeman’s meditations on the intersection of nature, culture and conflict feel more relevant than ever. The combination of glass with text and fabric in her artwork ignites an emotional as well as an intellectual response, the fragility of flowers and glass emphasizing the fragility of life and peace.
This exhibition is co-curated by the Chrysler Museum of Art and the Cleveland Israel Arts Connection, a program of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. A joint catalog for the Chrysler’s exhibition and a solo exhibition of Kaffeman’s work at the Petach Tikva Museum of Art in Israel will be printed bilingually in English and Hebrew. Support for the exhibition is generously provided by the Association of Israel’s Decorative Arts and by Cynthia and Stuart Katz.
Sunday, Sept. 12
1 p.m. and 3 p.m. │ Free
Join us for an in-gallery tour with Carolyn Swan Needell, Ph.D, the Chrysler Museum’s Carolyn and Richard Barry curator of glass. Look closely at Dafna Kaffemen’s intricate and layered glass and mixed media artworks in the exhibition and discover the inspiration for the works. Capacity will be limited. Registration is recommended. More information to come at chrysler.org.
Visiting Artist Series: Dafna Kaffeman
Friday–Sunday, Nov. 5–7
Demonstrations Friday–Sunday, Nov. 5–7 from 10 a.m.–1p.m. and 2:30–5 p.m. │ Free, donations encouraged to support the Visiting Artist Series
Lecture Saturday, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. Attend in-person or via Zoom │ Free for Museum members, $5 for non-members
See renowned Israeli artist Dafna Kaffeman live at the Perry Glass Studio. Watch as she demonstrates her glass flameworking process during public demonstrations and learn more about her work during an artist lecture. Tune in from home or join Kaffeman at the Glass Studio for an evening of art with food and drinks. Register for the lecture at chrysler.org or by calling the Glass Studio Welcome Desk at 757-333-6299. Sponsored in part by the Rutter Family Art Foundation.
Flame-working Classes at the Perry Glass Studio
The Perry Glass Studio offers an array of classes in flame-working for beginners as well as artists with experience in the process.
Aug. 15, Aug. 28, Sept. 25, Oct. 3, Oct. 23, Nov. 14 and Dec. 12
10 a.m.–5 p.m. │ $100 for Museum members, $125 for non-members
Experience flame-working at the Perry Glass Studio as you design and create glass flowers. First, learn to shape clear glass parts of a flower. Then, assemble those parts into a whole botanical. Once you understand the mechanics of the form, design and create a floral piece using colored glass rods. For ages 12 and up. Register at chrysler.org.
Jewelry on the Torch
Aug. 14, Sept. 18 and Oct. 24 and Nov. 28
10 a.m.–5 p.m. │ $100 for Museum members, $125 for non-members
Finish off your look with accessories that you can’t find in a store. Use a mix of clear and colorful glass to create abstract and floral-inspired jewelry. Learn about the basics and simple patterns. Throughout the day, build on those skills to create intricately designed wearables. For ages 12 and up. Register at chrysler.org.
Pyrotechniques: Blowing on the Torch
Aug. 21–22 and Oct. 16–17
10 a.m.–5 p.m. │ $180 for Museum members, $225 for non-members
Expand your flameworking knowledge and experiment with hollow-working, a type of flameworking. Use a torch to melt and shape tubes of glass into a medley of forms. Focusing on heating, breath, and using metal tools with precision, create symmetrical and organic shapes with added splashes of color. For ages 16 and up. Prerequisite: Any one-day flameworking class. Register at chrysler.org.
Aug. 29, Sept. 5, Sept. 19, Oct. 2, Oct. 30, Nov. 13 and Dec. 11
10–11:30 a.m. │ $40 for Museum members, $50 for non-members
Spend a morning at the Glass Studio melting solid glass rods over a torch to make marbles. Heat, gravity and simple graphite tools will bring your marbles to life. Once you have learned the basics of shaping clear glass, you can create colorful glass marbles. For ages 12 and up. Register at chrysler.org.
Aug. 29, Sept. 5, Sept. 19, Oct. 2, Oct. 31 and Nov. 13
1:30 p.m. │ $64 for Museum members, $80 for non-members
In an afternoon, learn to melt colorful glass sticks with a torch, spin the glass around metal rods, and form it into beads. Explore different bead shapes and color application techniques, too. This is a great class for beginners. For ages 12 and up. Register at chrysler.org.
Straws and Swizzle Sticks
Sept. 4, Sept. 26, Oct. 31 and Nov. 27
10 a.m. │ $40 for Museum members, $50 for non-members
Learn how to heat and melt glass rods and tubing to create custom reusable drinking apparatuses. Apply glass color, melt glass in a precise flame and make a drinking straw and swizzle sticks with unique color patterns. For ages 12 and up. Register at chrysler.org.
Flaming Heart Pendant
Sept. 9, Oct. 14, Nov. 11 and Dec. 9
6 p.m. │ $64 for Museum members, $80 for non-members
In this introductory evening course, use a torch and simple tools to melt and form solid glass into heart-shaped pendants. Practice making a heart with clear rods of glass and later learn to apply colorful glass to create a one-of-a-kind piece. For ages 12 and up. Register at chrysler.org.
ABOUT THE CHRYSLER MUSEUM OF ART
The Chrysler Museum of Art is one of America’s most distinguished mid-sized art museums, with a nationally recognized collection of more than 30,000 objects, including one of the great glass collections in America. The core of the Chrysler’s collection comes from Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., an avid art collector who donated thousands of objects from his private collection to the Museum. The Museum, expanded in 2014 to add additional gallery spaces and amenities for visitors, now has growing collections in many areas and mounts an ambitious schedule of visiting exhibitions and educational programs each season. The Chrysler has also been recognized nationally for its unique commitment to hospitality with its innovative gallery host program.
The Perry Glass Studio is a state-of-art facility on the Museum’s campus. The studio offers programming for aspiring and master artists alike in a variety of processes including glassblowing, fusing, flameworking, coldworking and neon.
In addition, the Chrysler Museum of Art administers the Moses Myers House in downtown Norfolk as well as the Jean Outland Chrysler Library. General admission is free at all venues. For more information on the Chrysler Museum of Art, visit chrysler.org.
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