Jewish schools art benefit includes Timenorahs

Liz Mamorsky mines the untapped beauty of recycled materials for her sculptures, lovingly refinishing each item.

A set of handcuffs might become a pair of eyeglasses on a mask; black-and-white piano keys make for a bountiful head of hair on a tzedakah box. She can look at anything and see a body part or an accessory — for a human, an animal, a robot, or a mythological creature.

Many of her "Rolling Timenorahs" will be on display Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 1 and 2, at an international Jewish art exhibit at Congregation Chevra Thilim in San Francisco. She and artist Michael Gleizer will be at the Wednesday evening program, a benefit for San Francisco's Shalom School.

"My new series of Rolling Timenorahs evolves out of my obsession with time," said Mamorsky, who works out of her San Francisco studio. "The clocks in these antique wooden foundry forms symbolize the stretching of time, as the Temple's one-day supply of oil burned for eight. Memory chips and hard disks remind us of the history and tribulations of the Jewish people."

To make them, she encases clocks in circular forms that she stacks like layer cakes, adding candleholders made of polished brass lamp fittings or silver plumbers' fittings. As a final touch, she brings them to life with rolling casters so they can follow the family around the house and "be whirled and twirled and loved in the ongoing dance of time."

Mamorsky's sculpture "creatures" are original and surreal, yet they seem somehow familiar. They beg to be explored on all their levels. On first impression, they are bright, beautiful, symmetrical, witty, frank and friendly. They often make people laugh, Mamorsky said. But look deeper and you find Mamorsky's social commentary on ecology, as well as her metaphor for a common humanity.

A lifelong painter, Mamorsky is relatively new to sculpture. Angry and frustrated when the Persian Gulf War erupted in 1991, she paced her studio and felt like wringing her hands in despair. Fortunately, her hands had ideas of their own.

Mamorsky had yearned for 20 years to be a sculptor, but she didn't know where to begin. That day, her stash of other people's discarded objects — scrap metal, wooden foundry patterns, electronic parts — called to her. She dove in and began to create her first sculpture.

Hundreds of sculptures later, Mamorsky is the featured artist at the Shalom School event. Her work is also in the current Jewish Museum of San Francisco show, "Making Change: 100 Artists Interpret the Tzedakah Box."

Mamorsky said she feels protected by her works and that others say they feel the same way.

"Whether they function as tables, toys, clocks, lamps, mirrors, menorahs, or all of the above — or simply exist for their own weird sculptural sake — they make me feel good and I like that," she said.

In addition to Mamorsky and Gleizer, Zev Markowitz of the Chassidic Art Institute of New York will also attend the Dec. 1 benefit, representing the works of artists Reuven Rubin, Yaakov Agam, Michel Schwartz, A. Ebgi, Michoel Muchnik and others.

The Dec. 1 program will also offer school tours and a Chanukah performance and art show by Shalom School children.

The Shalom School offers hands-on learning in math, literacy development and Jewish studies to preschoolers through first graders. Established in 1997, it now has nearly 40 students.

Director Hinda Langer said that presenting an art show appealed to her beyond the obvious desire to promote the school and benefit Jewish education.

"When people go home with art — that's inspirational, a continual uplift in the home. People have eclectic art collections, but many don't realize how rich the art tradition of our own [culture] is," Langer said.

Mamorsky's artwork had the "uplifting, rich content evocative of Jewish life" that Langer was looking for in the show. The first time she saw Mamorsky's work, she was thrilled, explaining, "Here was someone breaking artistic ground with Jewish content."