“Respect Your Elders,” Ronni Jolles, 2016, layered paper and acrylic, 18″ wide x 22″ long framed
Less strident in its urgency, perhaps, but equally—and even more directly—imperative in its message, essential to Jewish cultural values, and offering a very different aesthetic and technique, is the folded paper and acrylic work “Respect Your Elders,” by Ronni Jolles of Chevy Chase, MD. The image is inspired by the beautiful old olive trees near Jerusalem. The artist has managed to capture the extraordinarily-formed and textured tree trunks through a technique that yields what is in fact low relief sculpture.
This very original art form—contrived of papers from out-of-the-way locations from Thailand to Mexico, and pigments and varnishes—offers a multi-leveled visual and conceptual play. Rising from the brightly colored flower-punctuated earth, this particular olive tree re-visions the notion of the Tree of Life—we stand before it, within the garden, as it were, while beyond it the human-contrived architecture of the city of aspiration spreads out; but what connects us to that tree within Eden is the Torah—“a Tree of Life to them that hold fast to it”—that defines the basis for those aspirations and, particularly when it is read on the Sabbath, provides us with a weekly anticipatory glimpse of the Garden of Eden within the chaos of the everyday anthropocentric week.
So, too, we are perhaps reminded, by the uniqueness of the tree, of the midrash that describes an old man planting an olive tree, knowing that he will be gone before it bears fruit, so that his grandchildren will be able to enjoy its olives—and how many generations have come and gone in the literal and metaphorical shade of this particular tree? And so—as the title of the work enjoins us—we must reciprocate that concern for those who precede us in age that they exhibit toward those who follow them in age. And concern and respect for our elders includes all of nature, pre-eminent within it such living symbols of ageless oldness—moreover, for the artist, that sensibility is strongly personal (the tree of her family has deep roots in the Adas Israel Congregation in whose synagogue this exhibition is taking place).
Artist Ronni Jolles creates her signature paper paintings using a process that offers infinite possibilities for texture and color. She layers cut and ripped paper from all over the world, then adds acrylic paint to create uniquely textured paper artistry. From beauty in nature to scenes from everyday life to clients’ own special themes, Ronni’s paintings from paper give each subject special vitality and energy, while the sources of each individual piece of paper add depth of meaning to each piece. To learn more about Ronni, check out her website www.ronnijolles.com and follow her on Instagram @ronnijolles. Be sure to like Ronni Jolles (@ArtbyRonni) on Facebook, too.