Online Exhibition: “Covenants” by Judith Joseph

This month’s art exhibition features the work of Judith Joseph. The following introduction is by the artist in her own words. To return to this month’s online art exhibition, please visit the Sh’ma homepage.

An artistic ketubah is two things:  the text of the document, which is a prenuptial agreement, and the art, which expresses (non-verbally) the history, complexion and hopes of the couple.  My goal as a ketubah artist is to listen carefully to the stories people bring me, which I glean not only from their verbal and written narratives, but from their body language, the sound of their voices, the thoughts that give their eyes a sparkle and light up their faces.  I transmit their story, amplifying it through my own life experience and artistic ideas.

I think of the ketubah as something that should have an initial impact esthetically, hopefully eliciting a “wow!” response, and also a sustained response:  one that will play out over the years of the marriage.  I hope that in ten or twenty years, they may look at their ketubah and see something they never noticed before, or else see something in a completely different light, telling an evolving story.

I’ve made hundreds of ketubot since I started in 1973, and people have told me that their ketubah plays a role in their marriage, as a touchstone and sort of center of gravity.  So, having their story illuminated in art gives it a weight and a presence, visually, in their home.  The art, thus, becomes part of the contract.

Judith Joseph is a painter and calligrapher with commissioned works in hundreds of private and public collections. Her specialty is the Ketubah (Hebrew illuminated marriage contract, an illustrated calligraphic work used in Jewish weddings). Judith works in egg tempera, watercolor and acrylic. In addition to her calligraphy and illustration commissions, she creates and exhibits paintings and installation works. She is a published illustrator and a two-time recipient of the Illinois Arts Council Artists’ Fellowship Award. She is a painting instructor at the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Art Center, Highland Park.