New Jewish Culture Fellowship Artists Debut at Jewish Museum of Maryland


Danielle Durchslag is used to applying for fellowships. For the filmmaker, sculptor and costume designer, sending her portfolio to various shows and programs for consideration has always been a constant part of being an artist.

A frame from Danielle Durschslag’s short film “Anatevka” (Danielle Durchslag)

She always joked with her artist friends, saying that the more she wanted her work to be accepted for a fellowship or show, the more likely rejection was. The Brooklyn-based artist often faced difficulty finding a home for her work, which takes a more critical and sardonic look at certain aspects of Jewish culture.

When she applied to be part of the New Jewish Culture Fellowship, she knew she wanted to be accepted into the fellowship more than anything.

“I remember filling out the questions on the application,” she recalled. “And they were the most relevant questions to my practice and my Jewishness that I had ever been asked. And I thought, ‘Oh no, I really want this to happen. I really want this to be a yes.’”

Fortunately for Durchslag, she was accepted, and she quickly integrated herself into the community of Jewish artists who were also part of the NJCF. Her and her colleagues’ work will soon be showcased at a dedicated exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Maryland
that will run from March 26 through June 11.

“Material/Inheritance: Contemporary Work by New Jewish Culture Fellows” will feature selected works from 30 NJCF artists who work in a variety of different mediums. Drawings and paintings, sculpture, film and performance art will be featured in the exhibit, all speaking to the different artists’ personal experiences with Jewish culture and religion.

NJCF accepts a cohort of artists once a year, supporting them financially and providing them with a community of other Jewish artists for the duration of their membership. Though originally only open to New York artists, the fellowship has since expanded to include artists from all over the country.

“Material/Inheritance” marks the first time that NJCF has collaborated with the Jewish Museum of Maryland, using their space to display fellowship-produced art and hold performances.

“The Jewish Museum of Maryland is truly singular in the risks it’s willing to take in the stories it’s willing to tell,” added Durchslag. “I cannot tell you how much discussion there is around this museum because of its bravery. … A lot of artists like me are grateful that that institution exists and has the kind of leadership and approach that it does.”

“This show is really about showcasing a group of people, perhaps even a movement, in terms of its themes, more than it is a show around a particular theme,” said Leora Fridman, JMM’s curator in residence. “We were more interested in the artists proposing work that represents their individual practice as they are most excited to represent it, as well as their participation in the New Jewish Culture Fellowship.”

As a curator, Fridman was in part responsible for choosing the pieces on display at the exhibit along with the other members of the exhibition’s curatorial committee. She noted that their aim was to choose pieces showcasing diverse Jewish perspectives and experiences.

Many of the works will be reflective of uniquely Jewish experiences, good and bad. Artist and photographer Daniel Terna’s piece, tentatively titled “Verso,” is inspired by his late father, a Holocaust survivor and a fellow artist. Its title refers to the backsides of the canvases his father painted on, which are displayed in looping videos that eventually become out of sync with each other.

“The work I’ve been doing as an artist is largely inspired by my dad’s experience in the camps, life afterwards and what it’s like to be the son of a survivor,” Terna said. “What it’s like living with trauma and what it’s like to inherit that trauma, and my parents’ relationships with each other and with me.”

“Verso” was an especially cathartic project for him, as it emerged from attempts to document and preserve his father’s art after his death. He added that spending time in his father’s studio helped him process his grief.

“It was important for me emotionally to make work in his workspace,” Terna said.

Durchslag has two pieces included in “Material/Inheritance.”

One of her pieces, “Anatevka,” is a parody short film based on the song of the same name from “Fiddler on the Roof,” and it has already received accolades from the Toronto Female Feedback Film Festival and New Filmmakers New Orleans.

Her other work, “Forgive Us,” is a relief plate built upon the one her grandmother would use for Passover seders, satirizing Jared and Ivanka Kushner by depicting them as Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. It was made using the original platter and her grandmother’s gold teeth, which were melted down for the sculpture.

“One of the throughlines of my work is playfulness,” she explained. “It’s one of the many ways I try to honor Jewishness in what I make, because I think we’re very funny.” Mel Brooks and Agnès Varda serve as the inspirations for her humor.

Other pieces to be featured in “Material/Inheritance” span a wide range of subject matter, from LGBTQ identity to feminist thought and colonialism, all with uniquely Jewish undertones.

But there is another theme that propagates through “Material/Inheritance”: community.

“It’s about a group of people who have worked together through this fellowship,” Fridman said. “It focuses on how art, and Jewish art specifically, can be created and generated in a community.”

“Through the fellowship, I finally found my Jews,” Durchslag said. “They are politically radical, extraordinarily artistically talented. I’m so honored to be in the company of these artists. They are unafraid to touch hot topics in our community. And they’re also become, over the years, some of my closest and most important friendships.”

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