Martin Hirschberg has had an illustrious career as an artist, and for the first time, he’s bringing his art to shul.
His family has held membership at Beth Tzedec Congregation for four generations, and he’ll be exhibiting his Celebrations series of paintings in a hallway at the synagogue until the end of April.
Hirschberg, who also has pieces in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s permanent collection, admits it’s an unconventional gallery, but says the series fits in because the big acrylic canvases all depict families enjoying various simchahs and holidays, such as weddings, Shabbat dinners and Passover seders.
“That’s what this is about,” says Hirschberg. “It’s about family, it’s about getting together, talking about tradition.”
Hirschberg says it’s hard to find Yiddishkeit represented in the art world, a place dominated by Christian iconography. That’s why he began the series.
Celebrations features an array of characters, many of whom originally appeared in his The Family series. Like Celebrations, The Family included colourful, almost cartoon-like portraits of people Hirschberg says weren’t based on real-life subjects. “I painted other things, but these people kept on coming back,” he explains.
After his grandfather paid for him to take painting lessons, he eventually studied at the Ontario College of Art. Later, he started creating sculptures and high-tech installations. He describes this sculptural work as coming from a rather dark place. “Out of that darkness,” he says, “I had to come back…
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