tobaron3Jewschool is proud to congratulate NYC-based artist Tobaron Waxman on this major achievement:

The first transgendered artist to be exhibited in a major Jewish museum exhibition has won the Audience Award for the favorite work in the exhibition Reinventing Ritual: Contemporary Art and Design for Jewish Life.
Tobaron Waxman is the winner of The Jewish Museum’s first-ever Audience Award, selected from nearly sixty international artists. Votes were gathered from visitors to the exhibition in person and online, between September 13, 2009 and January 11, 2010. Waxman was selected for his provocative installation Opshernish, 2000/2009. The piece examines the construction of gender in Judaism by recreating and condensing a multi-part performance installation.

The following are the artist’s own words as shared with Jewschool’s editors:
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The original performance was about personal agency.
The current situation of the press release is actually very radical, because:
The Jewish Museum of New York is one of the largest in the world; this piece was in part of an exhibit that had the largest turnout of any opening at the museum.
Furthermore, the audience award was chosen for a piece that is:

  • not a design work or ritual object, but a conceptual art work;
  • not Zionist, but actually articulates itself as anti-kinship based identity formations;
  • not about the Holocaust, even though it involves a public shaving of someone’s head, but is rather a portrait of agency and meditative strength;
  • not critical or reacting against religion but rather is reverent of it;
  • not a painting or some other traditional medium but is a performance installation;
  • AND is made by someone known to be in solidarity with Palestinian liberation.
  • Oh, and I’m trans.

All of these elements have seen my work and other people’s work censored in the past, many times. (For example, the situation last year at the Koffler, a United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto (UJA) sponsored cultural centre in Toronto, when an artist’s work was banned due to her participation in Israeli Apartheid Week).
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Pointing out to the museum world and Jewish cultural organisations that museum visitors actually see this kind of representation as necessary, valid, and valuable to them, is a unique and portentous moment which I hope could set a precedent about how the museum both reflects and performs contemporary Jewish culture. This is then evidence of our contemporary Jewish reality, as one that is critical while still engaged.

The exhibition remains on view in New York until February 7, and will travel to the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, opening April 24.
Click here for the full press release from the Jewish Museum.