Intelligent Design

Art Studio

Barry Shapiro, Art Director

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Too  Jewish? (Video)Too_Jewish_%28video%29.htmlToo_Jewish_%28video%29.htmlshapeimage_8_link_0
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Spectacles of DevotionSpectacles_Of_Devotion/Spectacles_Of_Devotion.htmlSpectacles_Of_Devotion/Spectacles_Of_Devotion.htmlshapeimage_12_link_0

I use images now, almost exclusively, to tackle the social themes I’ve been addressing verbally, as a Philosophy teacher, Diversity trainer,  and Political activist, for over 40 years.

Having grown up as a Jew during WW II, I always knew that prejudice was harmful, more alarmingly, often lethal--not only for individuals, but for whole peoples--six million of my own, before I was 10.  So understanding how prejudice and oppression operate, and how they can be reduced (if not actually eliminated) has been a life-long quest for me.  On the other hand, as an artist, I am easily seduced by beauty, curious and distracted by how things look, awed by spectacle, and addicted to the pleasures of illusion.

My current body of work, Spectacles of Devotion: An Ecumenical Suite, aims to meld my passion for social justice with my addiction to aesthetics as it looks at several religious minorities, in public and at prayer (Catholic Nuns, Greek Orthodox Priests, Hasidic Jews, and Muslims).  It explores how people at prayer appear to others, and what appears to them during their devotions.  It examines the visual interplay between what is actually happening and what is actively imagined.

While most viewers may have difficulty personally identifying with the “peculiarity”  of my subjects dress and their forms of religious practice, they have an easier time identifying with  their spirituality.   In fact, it is in this movement from perceived difference to sensed likeness that prejudice is undermined and my didactic objective is advanced.

When I first began producing art, I used scissors and glue on appropriated printed images.  Now, by disciplining myself to use only my own photographs, I’m compelled to get closer and more personal with my subjects, thereby reducing the distance that permits or encourages seeing them as “other.” 

Viewed in its entirety, Spectacles of Devotion, is an ecumenical suite, dedicated to reducing prejudice and promoting respect, understanding, and appreciation of religions other than one’s own.  To that end, and for the most part, I have deliberately chosen iconic religious figures who have historically been the objects of societal prejudice.  My goal has been to advance their acceptance through an aesthetic that compels a second look--one that reveals the spiritual soul behind the social stereotype.