Spertus Institute to feature work by Oak Park resident

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By Community Editor


(Chicago) Berit Engen began weaving as a child in Norway, and now practices this ancient craft of entwining woof (horizontal threads) with warp (vertical threads) from her home in Oak Park, Illinois. Her work is influenced by the richness and diversity of the Jewish experience, making her miniature tapestries modern-day commentaries
(in Hebrew, drash) on the engaging, joyous, and at times challenging aspects of Jewish living.

Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership is proud to present Woof and Drash: Weaving the Jewish Experience, the debut exhibit of Ms. Engen's work. Beginning August 25, 2013, 85 of Ms. Engen's tapestries will be on view in the first-floor vestibule gallery at Spertus, 610 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Admission to the exhibit, which runs through February 23, 2014, is free.

Although small in size (most no bigger than 9 x 6 inches), Ms. Engen's tapestries pack a punch in terms of design, execution, and particularly subject matter. According to the artist, "The design of each tapestry is a distinct expression — the paired down essence of an idea and a complete artistic expression. Yet the tapestries are grouped by subject matter…each contributing to a larger whole."

The works, woven of Scandinavian linen yarn because of its light-reflecting qualities, explore a wide and diverse selection of subjects, some playful and some starkly serious. Topics range from the satiric incisiveness of Yiddish curses to the resonance of ancient prayers, and from the joyfulness of Jewish holiday celebrations to the raw emotional impact of tragedies both communal and incredibly personal.

About the works, Spertus Curator Ilana Segal says, "Berit offers up novel interpretations of classic Jewish subjects and texts, infused with her Scandinavian sensibility and color palette, and presented in masterfully designed packages. This refreshing body of work stems from her ongoing engagement with Jewish learning, something that we at Spertus feel is a key component of the vitality of the Jewish community."

The exhibit is open Sunday to Wednesday from 10 am to 5 pm, Thursday from 10 am to 6 pm, and Friday from 10 am to 3 pm. Spertus is closed on Saturday for the Jewish Sabbath and on Jewish and secular holidays.

Artist-led gallery tours of Woof and Drash will take place on Sunday, October 20 at noon and Sunday, November 17 at 2 pm. Participants will have a chance to meet Berit Engen and learn about the process, technique, and inspiration behind her unique tapestries. The tours are free and no reservations are required.

Discount Parking is available for $10 with Spertus validation at the Essex Inn, 8th Street and Michigan Avenue (2 blocks south of Spertus).


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