Our Mother Mary, Found

Beth Grossman, a San Francisco artist who integrates stories and history into her work, has launched a project on Mary, hardly a common figure in Jewish art.

She explains: “During the year 2000 I lived in Italy I was surrounded by the images and ideals of the Virgin Mary which are woven into the fabric of Italian culture. My initial response to the iconography of Mary was to question the ways that Western culture has shaped, and been shaped for centuries by the images of this one Jewish woman. Our Mother Man/ Found re-contextualizes the story of Mary by asserting her Jewish origin as part of her identity My project revisits the story of Mary, who is the iconic “Madonna”—the idealization of perfect womanhood—always a mother, forever gentle and virtuous.

“This body of work consists of ten rustic wooden household tools I collected during my stay in Italy that correspond to fragments of Man’s life. Each object is illuminated with three gilded lines of text taken from an 18th century Italian Jewish prayer book for women. One line is written in Hebrew, and subsequently repeated in Italian and English. The wooden objects are also adorned with a pair of gold-leafed hands drawn from historical paintings of the Virgin Mother.”