Tree-Focused Show to Benefit Tree of Life

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A Philadelphia art exhibit featuring trees and nature benefitting Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue building seems a perfect match.

The combination of Linda Dubin Garfield, an award-winning printmaker who helps area artists build exposure, and Rabbi Zalman Wircberg, gallery director at the Old City Jewish Art Center, came up with an exhibit titled “Trees of Life,” which opens Jan. 4.

“Linda was looking to a show, as her business, [smART business consulting], promotes area artists and planned an exhibit featuring trees and nature,” Wircberg said. “Then the tragedy happened in Pittsburgh and we have ‘Trees of Life’ to benefit Tree of Life.”

Philadelphia’s Jewish community was affected by what happened in Pittsburgh in many ways.

“It was so close to home, it was scary,” Garfield said. “At our synagogue in Wynnewood, [Congregation Beth Hamed-rosh], we have members taking turn standing guard.”

‘Birch Nest’ By Amie Potsic

The OCJAC, at 119 N. Third St., was founded in 2006 as a way to boost exposure of area Jewish artists with a combination of Judaism that anyone would understand. Since then, it has become a gallery in which serious artists have placed their work for exposure and sale.

The exhibit will be held in three segments, beginning from 5-9 p.m. on First Friday, Jan. 4, at the OCJAC.

“As is our tradition, the First Friday event will have the OCJAC’s unique Jewish twist that we always do,” Wircberg said. “Everyone will look at the art from 5 to 9, then we will all sit down for a Shabbos dinner. … The dinner is free to all, to anyone, Jewish or not. It is a way of bringing everyone together.”

The second event, in partnership with the Center for Art in Wood, at 141 N. Third St., will start at the OCJAC at 6 p.m. Jan. 14, then move — as a Tu B’Shevat celebration featuring fruits of the holy grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates — down the street to conclude at 8 p.m.

“It’s another chance for us to combine Judaism with art,” Wircberg said. “In this case, the art, featuring the environment, depicts what Tu B’Shevat is all about for us.”

The Center for Art in Wood features more than 1,000 varied pieces from around the world in its museum collection, as well as the Gerry Lenfest Gallery, which includes varied exhibits of wooden art. Both are free to the public. It also has one of the leading research libraries pertaining to art in wood under Artistic Director Jennifer-Navva Milliken.

In addition, it is home to the Wingate LTE International Residency, which offers seven annual fellowships — one to a photojournalist, five to artists working with wood in art and one to an artist working in wood in combination with other materials.

A closing reception for the exhibit is scheduled for 2-4 p.m. Jan. 27 at the OCJAC. From Jan. 4 to 27, the OCJAC gallery will be open from 12-5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 12-4 p.m. Sundays or by appointment. Admission to all Trees of Life events is free.

“We plan to donate 10 percent of the profits to Tree of Life, and people can donate if they want to as well,” Garfield said. “All five of the artists we have, four others and myself, deal with trees and nature in different ways.

“It’s really a unique combination of works. All our artists live in the Philadelphia area.”

The artists include:

  • Cynthia Back, with prints, paintings and environmental collages featuring forests and trees and contained in such collections as The Free Library of Philadelphia, the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library.
  • Susan Benarcik, a sculptor and surface designer, who incorporates twigs and other natural items. Her work is exhibited at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Conn., and the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art in Wilmington.
  • Frank DePietro, a Scranton native, who features trees in natural settings in his paintings. His work is in the permanent collection at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
  • Amie Potsic, a photographer and visual artist who deals with cultural, personal and natural phenomena. Her work has been exhibited in 18 solo exhibitions and more than 100 group exhibitions, including the Gershman Y and James Oliver Gallery locally.
  • Garfield, brings her printmaking, mixed media artistry, collage and digital imaging to play to create a fusion of surface design and abstract expressionism.

“I’m really excited by the diversity we have for the people to see,” Garfield said. “We really want to make certain Tree of Life Synagogue benefits. For the community, with what the OCJAC does, it is a chance, as Rabbi Wircberg always says, to bring everyone together.”

[email protected]; 215-832-0737

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