Past Events 2020

Past Events

Mark Strickland: Between Heaven and Hell, Fears and Desires

A Retrospective 2001-2011

"When I create, I often look at what was expressed through my awareness as if I hadn’t created the work. From time to time I discover a previous painting and do not remember having created it, as though the work came to be from its own longing for itself and not from me.  Painting or any other art form can be a way to turn pain, fear, and anxiety into flowers of calmness and wisdom. It can be used as a meditation for facing our fears from a sacred place of compassion for others, as well as for ourselves.  The exercise of “feeling” that we are made more of light and compassion than of flesh allows us to break down the barriers between us.

In this exhibit Between Heaven and Hell Fears and Desires, I intend to share with you, the viewer, my convictions and beliefs as a humanist artist."

Mark Strickland


"Mark Strickland, who defies the mainstream with his unsparing depictions of the worst we human beings do to each other. He requires us, no matter our discomfort, to look at it, and to confront our own responsibility. He does so in a scale, and with a passion that brooks no avoidance on the part of anyone who shares his courage to look barbarity, and cruelty, and misery in the face. His works- look at it! Really, look at it! That’s all he asks- is a maelstrom of conflicting emotion: anger, pain, sadness, grief, shame, guilt, it’s all there, upfront, unavoidable.

And then, finally- let’s not forget this, because it might be overlooked- there’s the bottom line, the one below the suffering. Or above the suffering, perhaps. It’s Strickland’s omnipresent, deeply expressed hope for peace and justice in the world."
-Peter Clothier

To hear more about our recent Art Opening with Mark Strickland, Click here


To Mark Strickland, inspired by his sculpture "Mater Dolorosa", by Teresa Lefranc


My children, my little ones,

I look at you and my heart rends,

How I wish I could hold

Each and every one.

And thus, take you to safe harbor.


I can feel your pain,

Your helplessness,

Your desperation.

I am silent witness

Of the tragedy of men.


I’ve seen dreams and desires

Become a reality.

I have also witnessed with sorrow

The shame and disgrace

That many suffer

Trying to search

A safe harbor

Under my shelter.


How I wish my torch would

Light up the deepest paths

Of the human heart.

There, where the best and worst

Of each one dwells.


Where the fiercest battles

Have taken place

And from where the most

Sublime feelings arise.


Thus, with that spark,

With that beam, seek

Brotherhood and not separation,

Fortune and not misfortune,

Life and not death

Of the many who clamor

My shelter and protection.




The Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller Institute for Jewish Learning presents:

American Jews, Israel and Anti-Semitism in the Trump Era

Susan Cooper

Story Line: My Family's History 

Art serves as a compass to determine and explore our place in the world. It is a fulcrum, linking the physical world with ideas, memory and vision. I have the honor of constantly reflecting a continually changing, perplexing, and marvelous world that we all occupy.

The studio work is a personal view. I strive to visually connect conceptual views to history and to nature. I often combine two and three dimensions. Two-dimensional images create illusions of depth, while three-dimensional art is typically object oriented. Combining the two affords the opportunity to build illusion out of objects and objects out of painting, thereby creating a paradox. This contradiction of dimension mimics our imaginations, perceptions feelings and daily lives. The studio work often addresses life cycles, changes in time and place, and the nature of art itself.

Los Angeles is my original home. My art education was in painting at the University of California, Berkeley, where I earned BA and MA degrees. After two years in New Mexico, I moved just outside of Denver where a former barn is my studio.

Susan Cooper

“Story Line” is a joy to read, partially because the information is so specific. Partially, too, because the imagery is done with such care and feeling. The booklet-like catalog that identifies buildings that figure into your family history was a brilliant idea. What you wrote about each site makes an engaging story.

                                                                                                 Jim Melchert, artist, Professor Emeritus at University of California, Berkeley
                                                                                                 Former head of Visual Arts, National Endowment of the Arts
                                                                                                 Former Director of National Academy in Rome

To hear more about our recent Art Opening with Susan Cooper, Click here


Soraya Sarah Nazarian - An Artist's Journey

Renowned Iranian Jewish artist Soraya Sarah Nazarian, in an intimate conversation with her daughters Shula and Sharon, will recount her extraordinary journey as an immigrant, an artist and a humanitarian
Moderated by Marla Berns, Director of the UCLA Fowler Museum
This event will be hosted on Zoom and is free & open to the public
Zoom details provided after online registration is confirmed

 Soraya Sarah Nazarian is an Iranian-born artist. She is a master in direct stone carving. Her work explores themes of motherhood, family, spirituality and Iranian culture.

 Soraya immigrated to the U.S. in 1979 with her family. Early in her career, she worked in multiple mediums including  drawing and clay. In the 1980s, Soraya began sculpting at American Jewish University (formerly University of Judaism), and established her own studio soon after.  Her work is distinguished by two major periods: the 1980s-1990s were a time of discovery and experimentation while the 2000s are marked by the creation of large-scale sculptures.

 Early experimentations show Soraya’s depth in mastering the female form and in creating abstract compositions out of stone.  These early works often reflected her life experiences - a theme that reemerges throughout her career. Most of her works are based on strong familial connections and a commitment to humanistic values.

 In 2000, Soraya traveled to Pietrasanta, Italy, a city made famous for its marble quarries by the Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo.  The experience profoundly shaped her life, focused her technique, and enhanced her relationship with stone.  Since her initial arrival, she has been one of the few women who have personally selected stone from Pietrasanta quarries.

Soraya’s work has been highlighted in various solo and group exhibitions. Strength Revealed (2010), was a 25 year retrospective of her work curated by Barbara Gilbert, curator emeritus of the Skirball Cultural Center and Museum in Los Angeles, CA. Accompanying the show was a catalogue titled Strength Revealed: The Sculpture of Soraya Sarah Nazarian including essays by Ruth Weisberg, Cynthia Burlingham, and an interview with Gloria Gerace. Recent group exhibitions include My Heart Is in the East (2012) an official satellite show of the Fowler Museum's Light and Shadows at Shulamit Nazarian Gallery Venice, CA; Sacred Words, Sacred Texts (2013) at Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles, CA; and 7,657mi exhibition in conjunction with the Jerusalem Biennale (2015) at American Jewish University’s Platt Gallery, Los Angeles, CA and Jerusalem, Israel. Her work is held in numerous private collections. 

Cultural, educational, and medical institutions in Israel and the U.S have commissioned several large-scale public art sculptures.  Recent commissions include Sound (2002) at the Jerusalem Academy of Music & Dance in Jerusalem, Israel; Reflections (2007) at Sapir College, near Sderot, Israel; Legacy (2009) at the University of Haifa in Haifa, Israel; Identity (2010) at Saperstein Middle School in Los Angeles, CA; Wings (2014) at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Jerusalem, Israel; Love Heals (2017) at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Israel; Unbound (2018) at California State University, Northridge University, Northridge;  and Dancer (2020) at the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Performing Arts, Northridge.

Soraya established the Soraya Sarah Nazarian Artists Initiative at the American Jewish University to provide emerging artists with studio and exhibition space in Los Angeles.

Soraya lives and maintains a studio in Los Angeles, California.


 For over twenty years, Shulamit Nazarian has been an advocate for artists, art education, and the creative community   in the United States and abroad. She immigrated to the United States with her parents and siblings from Iran. Shulamit studied architecture and worked as an architectural graphic designer before she began a successful career as a gallerist, opening the Shulamit Nazarian Gallery in 2012. The Gallery features a diverse program of emerging and mid-career artists and has achieved International recognition for its groundbreaking approach.




 As Senior Vice President of International Affairs, Sharon Nazarian heads the ADL’s work fighting antisemitism and racial hatred globally, including in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, and ADL’s Israel office. She is also President of the Younes & Soraya Nazarian Family Foundation and founder of the Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and Chairs its Advisory Board. 



Fall 2021

Merissa Mann

Where There's Smoke

Thursday, October 21st, 7:00 - 9:00 PM

Merissa Mann fuses her background in costume design with her love of art history to create alluring paintings, photographs, and soft
sculptures. Her work explores the intersection of eco feminism, horror, and its relationship to various systems of desire. Ms. Mann
visually highlights the interrelationship between bodily and natural systems to emphasize our shared connection with nature. She is
currently pursuing an MFA in Fine Art at Otis College of Art and Design. Ms. Mann received her undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley,
where she graduated cum laude with a BA in Practice of Art and was the first recipient of Certificate in Design Innovation. Her work can be
found online at or on Instagram @merissaonamission.

Artist Statement
My work has always been concerned with the plight of endangered species and art’s capacity to examine these issues from a more complex
and nuanced standpoint than classical activism. Through my paintings, staged photographs, and multi-media sculptures, I utilize different
aesthetic and conceptual practices/ methods to seduce the viewer into contending with our current ecological reality. I approach these issues through the various lenses of ecofeminism, science fiction, and kitsch. I’m specifically interested in how socioeconomic constructions of desire influence the way both women and the environment are treated.

Initially, I explored the plight of specific endangered species through the creation of surreal narratives wherein humanoid creatures
or anthropomorphic animals overcame various ecological disasters. I had hoped that the humanization of these species would create pathos
for the viewer and draw attention to the specific circumstances threatening the survival of these species. The paintings create fantastical worlds which reimagine our ecological future. As my work progressed, I began to veer away from traditional narrative tropes. My newer works no longer privilege a central figure, instead depicting a grander biomorphic environment. My latest paintings highlight our shared connection to nature through the visual confabulation of analogous structures across different flora and fauna. Internal organs mimic the shapes and colors of undersea creatures while mushrooms glisten like gangrenous blisters.

Expanding beyond the medium of painting, my staged photography and multimedia sculptures focus on the trafficking and maiming of
endangered species vis-a-vis the reappropriation of historical art imagery, costuming and kitsch aesthetics. Kitsch functions as comedic
relief: it allows the work to address otherwise horrific issues with a sense of humor. In the shark diptych, the overly dramatic make-up,
hair and shoes points to the performative act of seduction which parallels the artificial construction of desire. Certain animals and
their parts are only desirable because particular societies have decided that the possession and consumption of these species
symbolizes wealth, prosperity, and status. Aesthetic notions of desirability are similarly ingrained in the cultural psyche. Ultimately, economic structures profit from exploiting both human and animal flesh.

My work plays with the line between the beautiful and the horrific, challenging our preconceived notions that the abject can’t be simultaneously attractive and repulsive. Non-binary thinking enables us to reimagine our relationship to our bodies and the biosphere, putting the viewer in a new frame of mind. The human centric hierarchy is upended, and other systems are given precedence.

To read more about Merissa Mann, click here

Karen Amy Finkel Fishof

Ancient Wisdom

Thursday, October 21st, 7:00 - 9:00 PM


Born in the Bronx, NY, Karen was heavily influenced by the NY art scene, hanging out in clubs with Andy Warhol and Keith Haring in the 80’s. She apprenticed under artist, Marylyn Dintenfass and was greatly influenced by her thematic color schemes and work practice. Karen attended Syracuse University as a painting major, where she received a BFA in painting including a year abroad at St. Martins School of Art, London, UK, where she first started creating photograms under the same professors that worked with Gilbert and George and showing her paintings in New York.

Karen has been working as a painter, photographer, window dresser and graphic designer creating window designs for Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, Dress Barn Stores and major music labels as well as design for licensed products for Kraft Foods, Simon Malls, Crayola, Nickelodeon, Imax, Cartoon Network and Gameboy after receiving a second degree in Graphic Design.

Artist Statement
By pushing the boundaries of conventional black and white photography, I produce large scale, life size, one-of-a-kind photograms, using a variety of techniques, creating imagery as no one has done before.

Photograms provide the medium I need to tell my stories. Through them, I can express ideas about society and mass media. I love the creative process of these works, from the exposure to the development. The magic of seeing the image appear when the photo paper is placed in the chemistry, knowing it was a moment captured with no negative. I relish the anticipation in the darkroom of seeing how various objects live in the light and how light wraps around them and capturing that living dance on 2D, still, photo paper.

I am influenced by all artistic mediums including interior design, film, music, fashion and social media. I've worked in all these areas professionally, and draw from their current trends. The photogram process, the way I'm doing it, allows me to collage these areas together into one cohesive image statement.

Click here for a review on her exhibition by Edward Goldman

L. Aviva Diamond


Thursday, October 21st, 7:00 - 9:00 PM

Aviva Diamond began taking photos as a teenager, inspired by the works of Minor White and Paul Klee. She spent many years as a journalist, reporting and shooting for The Miami Herald, winning a local Emmy in St. Louis, and becoming a network correspondent for ABC News. She later established a successful corporate media training business. In 2014, Diamond joined the Los Angeles Art Association and began exhibiting her work. Her art has been included in shows at the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Palm Springs Art Museum, Annenberg Space for Photography, Neutra Institute Gallery, The Center for Fine Art Photography, the Latino Art Museum and various Southern California galleries.

For more information, Click here

Robin Comanor

My People 

Thursday, October 21st, 7:00 - 9:00 PM

My People, is an inclusive collection of paintings of persons affiliated with Judaism. They do not necessarily share a single interpretation of what it means to be a Jew. Some of my subjects follow the strict practice of Jewish law; while others include few if any Jewish rituals in their lives. Some even may not believe in God. The strength in Judaism is that it includes all such people. Perhaps one’s identity as Jewish simply requires the minimum recognition that a peoplehood can only survive with the personal recognition that one is a Jew.

About: My training began at the San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, California. Jay DeFeo, Jack Jefferson and Julius Hatofsky, were among highly respected instructors who influenced me. For many years my training and interest lay dormant as I raised a family. However, I always knew it would eventually return.

When I came upon the work of Alice Neel, I immediately knew that I wanted to paint modern paintings of humanity, highlighting our asymmetrical faces and bodies. Our individual features are compelling because they are unique to each individual. I do not paint to flatter my subjects but to pay tribute to their singularity.

My People, features paintings of people with an association to Judaism.

Aline Mare


Tuesday, March 1st, 7-9 PM

 Aline Mare began her career in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, coming out of a background of theatre, experimental film, and installation art. She was an early member of Collaborative Projects, a collective formed in downtown New York City and performed in a multi-media partnership, Erotic Psyche, a film and music extravaganza exploring the body and the senses, which toured extensively in Manhattan and Europe throughout the 80s. 

She completed undergraduate work at SUNY Buffalo’s Center for Media Studies and an MFA from San Francisco Art Institute, where she produced the film Saline’s Solution, a series of installations and performances that dealt with abortion from a feminist point of view,which garnered support and awards internationally, exhibiting at The Cinematheque in SF, The Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. She has received several grants and residencies including Fourwinds in Aureille, France, a 2015 Sino-American art tour in Shanghai, Starry Nights in New Mexico, Headlands Center for the Arts, Kala, Film Arts Foundation, New Langton Arts in SF and a New York State Residency for the Arts. 

 She continues to expand her work, concentrating on mixed media and installation, exploring the body and metaphors of nature and its transformative relationship to the human psyche and the state of our planet. New works have been exhibited locally and internationally in venues including the Griffin Museum, Turtle Bay Museum, Thoreau Center in San Francisco, the Santa Monica Museum, San Luis Obispo Museum, Castelli Gallery in Gainsville Georgia, the 2019 Jerusalem Biennial, and MOAH Museum in Lancaster, CA. Recent shows include the Mike Kelley Gallery, George Billis Gallery, Noysky Projects, Sturt Haaga Gallery, Jill Joy Gallery, SOLA Gallery, Open Mind Space and Wonzimer Gallery in Los Angeles. Her work is included in several private collections in the Bay Area, New York City, China, and Los Angeles.

Artist Statement

I interpret our world through the lens of science and art to shed light on the relationship between the environment and human nature. I work with a hybrid form of painting, photography, and installation, synthesizing my aesthetic sensibilities with a deep interest in the natural cycles of the earth.  

My process often begins with hand painted transparent surfaces scratched and marked with abstracted gestures. Using the illumination of the scanning machine as an original light source, I combine painted backgrounds with collected objects from the natural world and reclaimed photo-based imagery. I use a layering of sources—- from fossils and lichen, to egg shells and wasp nests—- scanned from my ongoing library of living artifacts; printing and painting on metal, glass, canvas and archival papers in a multi-tiered and visceral process. 

In my most recent work, I am returning to installation formats, integrating the materials used in my body of imagery, such as salt, seeds, and mica sheets, to create rich, immersive sculptural experiences.

Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik

Paper Golems: A Pandemic Diary

Tuesday, March 1st, 7-9 PM

Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik is a Jewish artist living in Southern California. He cuts up comic books and reassembles them into work made of clean lines and patterns, sinuous shapes and sharp edges, large fields of color and small intimate spaces.

Isaac exhibits his work in galleries around the country, and regularly speaks about the intersection of art and Judaism. He is on the Executive Board of Jewish Artists Initiative, committed to fostering visual art by Jewish artists and promoting dialogue about Jewish identity and related issues. His work is regularly featured in print and online, including recent articles in The Forward, L.A. Weekly, Cleveland Jewish News, and KCET's “Artbound” series.

He has been the artist-in-residence for the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial, was a Teaching Fellow at American Jewish University's Dream Lab, his portrait of Benjamin Netanyahu was included in an exhibition at the 2019 Jerusalem Biennale, and he received a juror's award in the "Heroes & Villains" show at the Annmarie Arts Center (affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution). 


"The golem story is one of power and protection. In March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns began in the United States, I began making golems out of cut-up comics as a way to find comfort and strength as the world began to throw more and more challenges at us.
The golem story asks us to consider that what we create to safeguard us from danger may not always be under our complete control. A golem is a source of security and also dread, of potential that can save us or doom us. But the golem story isn’t supposed to teach us how to create an actual living being, but rather to have us  think about the meaning of such an act. The golem story is an opportunity to consider what it means to make one’s protection with one’s own hands, from whatever materials are around — be it mud or paper — and to consider what role we play in our own salvation or destruction.
Over the past 16 months I have created dozens of golems in a multiplicity of shapes and sizes; I am pleased to share with you a selection from this series."

Artist’s Statement

My work explores the role of narrative in the development and expression of identity. I work in paper because I like its fragility and its place as our primary medium for telling and sharing stories across generations. It is both ephemeral and constant.

I work with the stories and traditions primarily of the Jewish people, though other peoples and cultures enter into my papercuts as well. These are filtered through the twin lenses of the traditional art form of papercutting and contemporary pop culture storytelling techniques.

My work is visual biblical commentary; I call it “paper midrash.” I always begin with text — often bible and other traditional sources, but also the words of poets and musicians. My work is influenced by elements of the natural world and how tradition understands its connection to the Divine: for example the burning bush, the parting of the Red Sea, the revelation at Sinai.

I layer cut-up comic books into my work, drawing parallels between comic book mythologies and religious traditions to delve into the stories that make us human. Comic superheroes exist outside of the “natural” world, be they visitors from other planets or people whose powers stem from strange scientific accidents; they have weaknesses and flaws, and their struggles are often a metaphor for the human experience. I bring these different types of stories together in the layers of my papercuts, searching for new meanings in these combinations.


To read more about, "Paper Golems: A Pandemic Diary", click here

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