“Santa Yarmulke,” Jacob Rath, 2018, fabric, 5.5″ diameter
There have been other humorous, even more benign ways in which the interweave of Jewish culture and tradition with American—American Christian—customs and traditions has played out particularly in the last two generations or so. It is this playing out that, tongue in cheek, defines—in different ways—the two works by Jacob Rath, from Minneapolis, MI, in this exhibition: the “Santa Yarmulke” and the “Goy Division T-shirt.” The first does so in offering repeating images of Santa Claus—with his familiar beard, shining smiling eyes and red cap with white furry fringe—strewn in an infinitizing pattern across the surface of a kippah. The head-covering that traditional Jews wear at all times—that less traditional Jews wear when in the synagogue or at a gravesite, and many Jews wear not at all—is overrun with a Christian symbol. Except in the America of today, in which Christmas is primarily treated as an occasion for goodwill, good gifts, and good economics, Santa is a benign elfin figure less connected to Christianity—he is hardly a stand-in for Jesus!—than to his own vaguely pagan ancestry. So we can embrace our Judaism and embrace Santa and the joy that he stands for without feeling that we are engaged in a spiritual paradox.
Jacob Rath is an artist who primarily makes artwork that has an interactive component. He likes making Judaica, because it allows him to participate in ancient traditions and to better understand them. When making Judaica, he is interested in creating objects that stay true to tradition, while also exploring new territory. He also likes to make objects that balance the values and traditions of the multiple (sub)cultures and communities that he participates in. He has a particular love of objects that simultaneously follow rules, break rules, and explore the territory not defined. He currently lives in Minnneapolis, MN, and is a member of Shir Tikvah synagogue. Follow Jacob on Instagram @jacobrathart.