“From the Book of Jewish History,” Marilyn Banner, 1999, ink and photo-transfer on dyed yellow canvas, 32” x 25”
From this conceptually large and physically small visual stepping-off point one follows further along the exhibit’s arc of Jewish history, through works diverse in medium and thought-provoking, touching upon events both factual and filled with imaginative possibilities. One direction is taken by Takoma Park, Maryland’s Marilyn Banner in her “From the Book of Jewish History”—done with ink and photo-transfer on dyed yellow canvas. Within the frame shaped as a simplified, stylized house she has embedded a range of images and words.
The bottom central image is an old family photograph (of her mother’s parents and others in the Old Country); above it a photograph of a sweatshop—a sewing factory—on the Lower East Side of Manhattan (in the New Country) where the artist’s grandparents (her grandmother, a milliner, and grandfather, a tailor) shaped the beginnings of their American lives; the image is crowned by an exquisite illuminated manuscript page—a Passover Haggadah, in fact, from which the opening word(s) “And [God, or Moses] spoke…,” the opening word(s) of a narrative passage—are detailed. These are flanked above and below by gravestones—more precisely, a large, fully inscribed stone on the upper left and lower right; piles of gravestones on the lower left and upper right, in a dynamic kind of contrapposto composition. The remaining spaces, left and right, are overrun with text—two substantial fragments of a long article by a Swiss nun delineating and apologizing for centuries of virulent Christian antisemitism, quoting passages that carry from St Augustine to Luther.
This is history that is at once very personal and resonates with a sense of planet-wide, diaspora community.
Marilyn Banner was born in St. Louis, Missouri. She received a BFA in Painting from Washington University and pursued further work in the fine arts at Queens College (CUNY), University of Maryland, and Massachusetts College of Art (MSEd 1982). Mentors David Lund, Lowry Burgess, Marvin Bileck, and Betsy Damon were significant influences in her approach to painting, media, concept, and content. Banner has been awarded ten fellowship residencies to Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and received grants from Montgomery County Arts Council and the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. She has exhibited extensively in the US, including at the Ratner Museum, Corcoran Museum, and B’nai B’rith Museum (in the D.C. area), and at Ceres Gallery and Hebrew Union College Museum in New York City. She has been a member of Ceres Gallery (New York City) since 1992 and lives in Takoma Park, Maryland. Check out Marilyn’s website www.marilynbanner.com.