Women’s Voices, Women’s Images

Carol Hamoy, whose one-woman art exhibit on the theme of “Kol Ishah— Women’s Voices” appeared in Manhattan’s Ceres Gallery earlier this year, credits this column in LILITH with inspiring her latest work.

Judaism and feminism intersect in her work, which, she says, is increasingly motivated by Jewish themes.

Hamoy constructs works mounted on wood or freestanding, using old photographs, personal memorabilia, fabrics and textiles, treasures from flea markets and dumpsters, mirrors and beads, postcards, dried flowers and paint, as well as Jewish ritual objects and pages from prayerbooks. Having grown up in a family involved in the garment industry, “it seems I’ve come full circle,” she said, recalling her childhood days of playing with buttons and scraps of fabric.

Hamoy’s Jewish expression represents another full circle in her life. A child of a “traditional Jewish family in which the education and careers of girl children were not important,” Hamoy grew up ambivalent about her religion. But fifteen years ago, when a friend took her to a Fast of Esther service before Purim held by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb in New York City, her attitude changed dramatically. “I was instantly captivated by this rabbi,” she recalls, Hamoy became devoted to Rabbi Gottlieb and her traveling minyan, joining her for a vegetarian Passover seder and Yom Kippur services in an old synagogue-turned-dance studio on Eldridge Street on the Lower East Side. Hamoy studied Hebrew with Rabbi Gottlieb, and decided at age 48 to have a Bat Mitzvah. “It was the first time my Orthodox mother-in-law had seen the Torah up close, and the first time my mother was called to the Torah.”

“Wonder Women” are captivating, free-standing constructions representing five women from the Jewish tradition, including Dinah and the Sabbath Bride. “Had I known these women existed, I might have had an earlier interest in Judaism,” Hamoy admits.

Hamoy has also created pieces in series on Lilith and Tamar (“A Womb of Her Own”), has just completed a wrenching series on the Holocaust, and is planning a series on goddesses, inspired “not by the Greek gods and goddesses, but by small Canaanite and Ancient Near Eastern goddesses, like amulets to Lilith, for example.”

Hamoy is a founding member of a support group for Jewish women artists; the participants meet monthly to discuss books they read together, topics in religion, being Jewish daughters and mothers, and other issues of Jewish identity. The diverse group includes religious to secular women from Germany, Mexico, Israel and the U.S., book artists, photographers, painters, sculptors, printmakers, and collagists. The oldest member is near 70, the youngest is in her 30s. Hamoy, who recently collaborated on a Jewish holiday project with another member, says, “Not all of us work with Jewish themes, but we all discuss how Judaism affects our ml.”

“Voices” and “Wonder Women” will be travelling to the May Museum on Long Island and to other locations throughout the year