“Beetles” by Cynthia Peppers — one of many submissions we received from local artists for the cover of our annual "Resource" guide to Jewish life in the Bay Area.
“Beetles” by Cynthia Peppers — one of many submissions we received from local artists for the cover of our annual "Resource" guide to Jewish life in the Bay Area.

On our ‘Resource’ cover and off: an outpouring from Bay Area artists

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Everyone knows the Bay Area is full of artists, but when J. put out a call in January for original art to grace the cover of “Resource,” our annual guide to Jewish life in Northern California, the response was overwhelming.

We received a total of 173 submissions from 52 different Bay Area artists who were eager to see their work on the cover of our 2019 guide to Jewish organizations, services and businesses in the greater Bay Area.

Whether figurative or abstract, water color or photography or collage, symbolic or secular, all of the submissions were worthy.

But we could only choose one. That honor went to digital artist Deborah Garber, for her piece, “Tree of Life.”

To display the range of artistry in our community, we also present here a small sampling of the other worthy submissions we received, along with the thoughts of the artists who created them. We will continue to welcome contributions to Resource in the years to come. Watch for our next call for submissions in January 2020.


Deborah Garber: “Tree of Life”

A native of Rock Island, Illinois, Deorah Garber is a longtime resident of Sonoma County She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, where she studied printmaking and illustration. A lifelong interest in languages led to additional studies at Hebrew University, Ulpan Etzion, the Martin Buber Institute, Sorbonne University, City College of San Francisco and Santa Rosa Junior College.

In her career as a fine artist, Garber has exhibited her paintings, pastels and prints nationwide and her works are included in numerous public and private collections. In 2006, recognizing the need for digital fluency, she learned the language and tools of graphic design software. She now applies those skills to the creation of illustrations and graphics for educational institutions, nonprofits and small businesses.

When not honing her creative skills, she continues to dabble in languages, volunteers in an ESL classroom, and tries to keep abreast of the political matters of the day.

“Floating Hearts” by Ellen Tobe

Ellen Tobe: “Floating Hearts”

“The Jewish mystical tradition teaches that there are four levels of perception, the worlds of 
action, feeling, thinking and being,” writes Millbrae-based graphic designer Ellen Tobe on her website. “Good design speaks to all four levels.”

As an artist, Tobe works primarily in mixed media, which may include collage, day-to-day ephemera, image transfer, paint and ink. All of them are antidotes, she says, to the computer-centric work she does when designing for business.

Her collage “Floating Hearts” is a magenta-saturated visual delight that is open to interpretation. “A lot of my artwork has Jewish themes,” she says. “I’m a fluent Hebrew speaker, having lived in Israel for many years, and I often incorporate Hebrew typography in my artwork. The Hebrew language and the letters themselves are a source of inspiration in much of my artwork.”

The work she submitted, however, came from some other spark. “I work intuitively — and I usually don’t know where the artwork will take me when I begin,” she says. “This is a perfect example.”

“Jerusalem Pomegranates” by Sonia Melnikova-Raich

Sonia Melnikova-Raich: “Jerusalem Pomegranates”

“If you are in Israel in the fall, pomegranates are everywhere, on and under the trees, in the street stalls sold as juice, and even among the architectural ruins,” Sonia Melnikova-Raich writes in describing the photograph, “Jerusalem Pomegranates,” she submitted.

“I was fascinated by the accidental juxtaposition of this ancient fruit, that came to signify Jewish holy days, and the remnants of the ancient structures. The pomegranate sitting on the top of a Doric column looked right out of a biblical text: ‘And he made the pillars, and two rows round about upon the one network, to cover the chapiters that were upon the top with pomegranates” (1 Kings 7:18).

It is not surprising that Melnikova-Raich’s eye is drawn to things architectural. She was trained and worked as an architect and artist in Moscow before she came to San Francisco, where she has lived since 1987.

But photography is her chosen medium of expression. “I believe that photography is the best medium to express feelings” she says, “as each photograph is inherently an image of disappearance, an ocular connection to the past forever stamped by time.”

Her photographs have been exhibited locally and nationally, including several solo shows, and have won competitions. Her works are held in private and public collections and have been featured in professional photography journals.

“I look for poetry and mystique in common things and enjoy the challenge of creating an image out of the ordinary and the familiar, interpreting it in a unique way,” she explains. “In that, I feel a strong affinity with the Japanese philosophy and the aesthetic of wabi-sabi, with its reverence for the subtle beauty in old and simple things and their fleeting and transient nature.”

“Sparks of the Holy” by Rita Sklar

Rita Sklar: “Sparks of the Holy”

J. was very taken with Rita Sklar’s sensitive water color of an older woman lighting Sabbath candles, a skilled example of figurative painting.

“Sparks of the Holy,” Sklar tells us, “is one of a series of nine paintings that I did, challenging myself to use a completely different palette and style in each one.”

At the time, she says, she was working on a series she called “Mom Lighting the Candles.”

“Ruth was already in her 90s and I was struck with the realization that, although she had never gone to Hebrew school and didn’t know how to read a prayer from a book, she had maintained this Jewish ritual with her family for so many decades,” Sklar says. “She kept a kosher home, celebrated all the Jewish holidays in her home, sent her children to Hebrew school — and the lighting of the candles was an important part of her identity.”

Sklar, who studied water colors with a master painter in Madrid after graduating from Rutgers University I New Jersey, has received wide exposure locally, including eight paintings commissioned by the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. This summer, some of her work can be seen at New Museum Los Gatos. She is a member of the California Watercolor Association, San Francisco Women Artists and the Valley Art Gallery in Walnut Creek, in addition to other galleries and associations, and she has received an award of distinction from the National Museum of Women in the Arts in 2013, among many other awards. Sklar lives and works in Oakland.

“Playground” by Stanley GoldsteinStanley Goldstein: “Playground”

When looking at Stanley Goldstein’s submission, we saw realism: a warm, life-filled, San Francisco landscape, rich in detail both physical and human. There are helmet-wearing kids on tricycles, an athletic mom with a Fitbit on her wrist, a watchful dad enjoying his time with his son.

In the mix, there is also a group of Hasidic Jews.

“Playground,” says Goldstein, a San Francisco resident, “was inspired on a sunny day in the park. I loved seeing parents and children from all walks of life and all races and, possibly, faiths, joining together in this neutral zone of a children’s playground, united by the space and the wonderful light. But the most fun for me — and the reason I submitted it to [J.] — was the Hasidic family playing football.”

A Los Angeles native, Goldstein is now an established Bay Area painter who teaches at the San Francisco Art Institute, City College of San Francisco, College of Marin, California Academy of Sciences, Idyllwild Arts and privately. He has had numerous solo exhibitions in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City, and has works in the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts’ permanent collection at the Fine Arts Museums in San Francisco.

“Beetles” by Cynthia Pepper

Cynthia Pepper: “Beetles” 

Cynthia Pepper’s joyful, colorful abstract “Beetles” has absolutely nothing about it that says “Jewish” in a direct way. And yet, one could make the case that there is nothing not-Jewish about her love of nature or visual joie de vivre.

“I submitted my print,” she says, “because I felt whimsy would be a nice direction for the J… a rare and underappreciated quality in all aspects of life. It is a hand-painted monotype. The bugs are playing musical chairs.”

Pepper, who lives in San Rafael, is a multifaceted artist who likes to keep her life whimsical.

She teaches dance to children with several Bay Area arts organizations, including the San Francisco Ballet, Young Imaginations in San Rafael and Young Audiences of Northern California. Xanadu, her production company, creates short films and dance media for commercials, TV, operas, the internet, theater and other outlets.

She also has produced short films for “Sesame Street,” Nickelodeon and HBO, and her current film, the 29-minute “Pixie & Dust” (described by one fellow artist as “a colorful, sprightly, kaleidoscopic adventure into creativity”) is currently on the film festival circuit both in the U.S. and abroad.

Laura Pall
Laura Paull

Laura Paull was J.'s culture editor from 2018 to 2021.