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Sabbath: The 2017 Dorothy Saxe Invitational Exhibition

Fifty-seven artists interpret the day of rest
November 12, 2017–February 25, 2018


Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work …

—Exodus 20:8-11


(San Francisco, CA, October 3, 2017) In its latest iteration of the Dorothy Saxe Invitational exhibition, Sabbath, The Contemporary Jewish Museum (The CJM) asks fifty-seven artists, both local and national, to interpret the day of rest, and the thought-provoking results are on view in a new exhibition this fall.

The diverse group of participating artists examine the depth of the fourth commandment, its influences, and its universality. A day set aside for rest and worship is a pillar of many religions and a staple of the modern workweek. The Seventh Day holds particular importance within Judaism, and Shabbat is considered one of its first and most sacred traditions. In order to explore the many layers of meaning of the Jewish Sabbath, the artists were each given excerpts from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s 1951 masterpiece, The Sabbath. Heschel argued that Judaism is a religion of time, finding meaning not in space and the material things that fill it, but in time and the eternity that imbues it, and Heschel considered the Sabbath a “palace of time.”

Continuing the Invitational’s commitment to the art of craft, each work will be three-dimensional in a wide range of materials such as ceramic, wood, and glass. All works of art in the exhibition will be for sale with proceeds benefiting the artists and The CJM.

Started in 1984 and now in its eleventh iteration, The Dorothy Saxe Invitational is an important component of The Museum’s long-standing tradition of inviting artists from a variety of backgrounds to explore a Jewish ceremonial object, holiday, or concept within the context of their own medium and artistic philosophy. Previous Invitationals have featured artist interpretations of seder plates, the holiday TuB’Shevat (New Year for trees), spice boxes, tzedakah boxes (alms containers), kiddush cups (goblets used to sanctify wine), and menorahs (ceremonial candelabras).

“This year’s Invitational is only the second time we have commissioned works inspired by a Jewish idea, as opposed to a ritual object,” says Lori Starr, Executive Director, The CJM. “This gives the artists so many opportunities for interpretation, and the results are really surprising and wonderful. We are so grateful to Dorothy and her late husband George Saxe, who endowed this program in her name. We are also grateful to all the artists who are participating, and hope each work finds a home where it can be enjoyed by an individual, a family, or a community.”

The artists’ contributions are wide-ranging. Invitational veteran and sculptor Terry Berlier has created a carved and stained wooden effigy of a challah, the traditional Sabbath bread, while Stephen Hendee’s much more abstract work is a sculptural object meant to suggest a shell cast off and reacquired in a process of renewal. Kurt Weiser, well-known for his sumptuous and provocative teapots and jars, contributes Solitude, a teapot covered in Eden-like images.

Torreya Cummings’ sculpture is an object composed of worn-out work gloves that have been “retired” by many of her friends. Nicole Phungrasamee Fein’s Sabbath Basket, made of white paper, is completely woven closed, rendering it unusable in reference to Sabbath restrictions on labor.

Geri Montano has carved two doll figures from a candle, drawing on her Native American heritage and using a ritual object of the Jewish Sabbath. The dolls are joined end-to-end together in a reclining pose, referencing the expression of burning a candle at both ends, encouraging viewers to let go of fast-paced tendencies.

Josh Pieper’s Video Cactus, refers in part to the idea that on the Sabbath, the television is supposed to be off. On a deeper level, Pieper suggests that a natural object like a cactus can be a portal to meditation on one’s relation to the world, which is the goal of the Sabbath. As Pieper offers, it can be “a small, contemplative, and perhaps even a poetic moment of joy.”

Lucy Puls’ cast leaded glass sculpture Untitled (toggle switch with faceplate) considers the idea of switching or toggling between states of being. Puls writes, “A day of rest provides, at least briefly, time to remember what it means to be truly, fully human.”

Joshua Peder Stulen collaborated with Trish Hilburn to create For the 49ers Faithful, a crocheted kippah (skullcap) that comments on the similarities between the unwavering faith and commitment of sports fans and the ideologies found in religion.

Wanxin Zhang’s Food Box, an intricately decorated take out container, is inspired by the ancient Chinese saying that “food is the first necessity of the people.” Zhang considers how shared meals, as seen in the Sabbath tradition and in various cultures around the world, are the centerpiece of bringing people together and also references the popularity of Chinese cuisine among Jewish Americans, especially on days when they are not permitted to cook for themselves.

Other participating artists include:

Lauren Bartone
Laura Boles Faw
Diedrick Brackens
Randy Colosky
Nathan Cordero
Sofía Córdova
Chris Daubert
Al Farrow
Bella Feldman
Chris Fraser
Erik Geschke
Rebekah Goldstein
Nicki Green
Beth Grossman
Valerie Hegarty
Elisabeth Higgins O' Connor
Jennifer Holt
Sergei Isupov
Sheila Klein
Mirka Knaster
Lisa Kokin
Cary Leibowitz
Beth Lipman
Cybele Lyle
Tom Marioni
Cathy McClure
Em Meine
Jim Melchert
Michael Elijah Meyer
Richard Notkin
Kambui Olujimi
Zemer Peled
Susan Plum
Sofie Ramos
Leah Rosenberg
Zachary Royer Scholz
Jeff Schwarz
Kay Sekimachi
Richard Shaw
April Surgent
Chris Taggart
Lisa Jonas Taylor
Lava Thomas
Monica Van den Dool
Jason Walker
Patti Warashina
Allan Wexler

The CJM will be publishing a catalog, available in The Museum’s Store, with full color plates of each work of art in the exhibition and related essays.

Three participating artists will receive The Dorothy Saxe Award for Creativity in Contemporary Arts. These cash awards, which will be announced at the Opening Celebration on November 11, will be determined by a jury of distinguished curators. Additionally, one Invitational artist will receive a People’s Choice Award at the conclusion of the exhibition, allowing Museum visitors to participate actively in honoring an artist.

Sabbath is curated by Chief Curator Renny Pritikin and former curatorial staff members Pierre-François Galpin, Anastasia James, and Sophie Schwabacher, and organized by Curatorial Assistant Natasha Matteson with the assistance of interns Fernanda Partida Ochoa and Emily Lawhead.

The Shabbat Design Challenge

In conjunction with this year’s Invitational, The CJM will be holding a Bay Area student Shabbat Design Challenge. Students from any formal or informal Jewish education setting are invited to create art objects to represent imaginative ways of exploring the Sabbath. Students are encouraged to look beyond traditional Judaica and investigate ideas of time and space as separate from their everyday, fast-paced lives.

Teachers can submit photographs of students’ work by December 17, 2017 to be included in a digital display at The CJM’s Family ArtBash Sunday celebration on January 28, 2018. Eighteen finalists will be selected to be displayed at venues around the Bay Area and at The CJM during the final weeks of the Invitational.

Guidelines and entry forms will be available at

Organization and Funding

Sabbath: The 2017 Dorothy Saxe Invitational is organized by The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco. An endowed sponsorship for this exhibition was created by George Saxe, z”l, in honor of Dorothy R. Saxe. Major support has been provided by Phyllis Cook and Wendy Kesser. Supporting Sponsorship is provided by Robert and Judy Aptekar.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum thanks the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for its lead sponsorship of The Museum’s exhibition program.

About The Contemporary Jewish Museum

With the opening of its new building on June 8, 2008, The Contemporary Jewish Museum ushered in a new chapter in its twenty-plus year history of engaging audiences and artists in exploring contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. The facility, designed by internationally renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, is a lively center where people of all ages and backgrounds can gather to experience art, share diverse perspectives, and engage in hands-on activities. Inspired by the Hebrew phrase L’Chaim (To Life), the building is a physical embodiment of The CJM’s mission to bring together tradition and innovation in an exploration of the Jewish experience in the twenty-first century.

Major support for The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibitions and Jewish Peoplehood Programs comes from the Koret Foundation. The Museum also thanks the Jim Joseph Foundation for its major support of innovative strategies for educating and engaging audiences in Jewish learning. Additional major support is provided by two Anonymous donors; Alyse and Nathan Mason Brill; Carbon Five; Gaia Fund; the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; Grants for the Arts; Walter and Elise Haas Fund; the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties; Suzanne and Elliott Felson; Wendy Kesser; Maribelle and Stephen Leavitt; Nellie and Max Levchin; Millennium Partners, the Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Foundation of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund; The Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund; Dorothy R. Saxe; Seiger Family Foundation; Taube Philanthropies for Jewish Life and Culture; and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

For more information about The Contemporary Jewish Museum, visit The Museum’s website at

General Information

The Museum is open daily (except Wednesday) 11am–5pm and Thursday, 11am–8pm. Museum admission is $14 for adults, $12 for students and senior citizens with a valid ID, and $5 on Thursdays after 5pm. Youth 18 and under always get in free. For general information on The Contemporary Jewish Museum, the public may visit The Museum’s website at or call 415.655.7800. The Contemporary Jewish Museum is located at 736 Mission Street (between Third & Fourth streets), San Francisco

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