“Trees Tallit,” Ruth Simon McRae, 2019, photo silkscreen and stencil on cotton and linen, 15″ x 78″
It is symptomatic of the endlessly rich possibilities even within the confines of one subset of indefinable Jewish art that Ruth Simon McRae, from Taylorsville, GA, has created a “Trees Tallit” that both echoes and yet is completely different in visual conception from the Fredgant tallit. McRae’s technique is completely different, devised with photo silkscreen on cotton and linen. From its “title”—like its Fredgant sibling, it is named as a work of art might be, rather than simply called by its generic object-type designation—to its imagery, it plays directly with the notion of the Torah as a Tree of Life and the wrapping around of the one in prayer so that he—or she, or they—becomes a tree of life connecting earth to heaven in being engaged in addressing God.
McRae offers with clarity the traditional interweaving of blue threads within the white fringes called tzitzit—derived as an appurtenance of the tallit, from the commandment in the Torah—Numbers 15:37-41—to wear fringes (tzitziyot) on the four corners of one’s garment, contrived, according to the rabbis, of wool and linen. It is, however, as if the watery blue has seeped up and into the entirety of the garment, suffusing it with the darker shades that embed themselves in lighter blues seeping down from the sky: mayim meets shamayim in this well-crafted artist’s composition in which blocks of pigment are overrun with the skeletal forms of tree trunks and their endless arrays of branches.
Ruth Simon McRae is an artist living in North Georgia who works in a wide range of mediums, including textile arts, painting, printmaking, mixed media, and ceramics. She experiments in materiality and layering by merging complex color combinations, pattern designs, and textures.
McRae is particularly interested in expressing personal and family history through Judaic textiles.
Her tallit, “Trees,” was inspired by an experience of sitting in her backyard at dawn looking up at the sky through the trees. The fabrics used include a silkscreen design of abstracted tree shapes and branches. This tallit is the first in a series of eighteen talitot, titled “Tiferet.” Each revolves around a particular concept, such as landscape, and evocative combinations of materials. Each tallit was constructed over a fairly long period of time, with one material or section added in response to the last, like a painting. Many traditional textile-dyeing and painterly techniques were used in making the talitot, such as shibori multi-hue dyeing, embroidery, and collage using antique lace and other vintage materials to create a harmonious whole.
Ruth Simon McRae is an artist who works in a wide range of mediums – painting, collage/mixed-media, textiles and ceramics She is particularly interested in expressing personal and family history through Judaic textiles. Her educational background includes an M.S. Textiles degree from Georgia Institute of Technology and a B.S. Textile Design from Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. She also studied painting at Philadelphia College of Art and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. McRae lives in a 120 year old home in Taylorsville, Ga, a small town in the northwest corner of the state. To learn more about Ruth, check out her website www.ruthsimonmcrae.com and follow her on Instagram @ruthsimonmcrae.