Upcoming Exhibits

Fall 2021

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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 merissamann.com 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.


Winter 2022

Ruth Weisberg

Thursday, January 27th, 7-9 PM

Ruth Weisberg, artist, Professor of Fine Arts and former Dean at the USC Roski School, is currently the Director of the USC Initiative for Israeli Arts and Humanities, and the founder and former President of the Jewish Artists Initiative of Southern California.  Weisberg has had over 80 solo and 190 group exhibitions, including a major exhibition at the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena and a retrospective, at the Skirball Museum, Los Angeles as well as a solo exhibition at the Huntington in San Marino. Her work is in sixty major Museum collections including The Art Institute of Chicago; The Biblioteque Nationale of France, Paris; Istituto Nationale per la Grafica, Rome; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Norwegian National Museum, Oslo; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Gallery, Washington, D.C. and the Whitney Museum. 

Artist Statement

For me, Art is a gift between the artist and the viewer and a dialogue between the past and the present. I am in conversation with artists long dead and can search the distant shores of memory for my ancestors and their stories. I make art out of all aspects of my identity, finding in the process that art integrates my experiences, beliefs and heritage.

Aline Mare

Thursday, January 27th, 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

Thursday, January 27th, 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.


The Dortort Center Galleries are located at Hillel at UCLA. The public is invited to view our exhibits Monday through Friday from 10:00am to 4:00pm (or at other times by special request) when school is in session.

For questions, please contact Perla Karney at 310-208-3081 x108 or [email protected]