Siblings Vlad Smolkin (artist) and Victoria Smolkin (Russian History Professor) will be joining forces on Sunday, Nov. 11, at 4 p.m., to share their work with the public at a new and revamped CBSRZ Art Gallery Opening/Books & Bagels talk at Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek in Chester.
Sharing space at CBSRZ seems to be a highly appropriate thing for this brother and sister to do, since each of them is heavily invested in space of one sort or the other. Vlad Smolkin describes himself as a VERY Reformed Jew with strong cultural ties to his Jewish heritage. He believes that “The essence of all religions is wonder, and Judaism embraces that essence...Artmaking is a faith system that weaves in and out of all religions.” Smolkin’s work begs the question “What is faith...what do we structure our faith around...ideas, physical objects...” His work references art history such as the Hudson River School of Art in which artists see G-d through idyllic landscapes.
Although serious at its core, Smolkin’s art is often whimsical, almost “nonsensical” (Smolkin’s comment), for example, his outer space series in which he envisions how Judaism might exist on other planets such as Mars and the transfer of the Western Wall to Mars or the last vestige of our Jewish humanity being the cultivation of flowers on Mars.
Smolkin has been making art that relates to Judaism since childhood. In 1988 four-year-old Smolkin and his family immigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union, in part because of their experience as Jews who were treated especially badly as both religious and ethnic outsiders. Although he did not grow up religious, his “... family history is marked by intolerance, oppression and murder based on the fact that they were Jewish.” Now, living in the United States, Smolkin feels “...a strong attachment to his ethnic and cultural Jewishness and to the history of his family.”
Victoria Smolkin, a professor of history at Wesleyan University, will be bringing her new book “A Sacred Space is Never Empty,” in which she explores the history of atheism in the Soviet Union and shows how, in different ways during differing periods of Soviet history, atheism was reimagined as an alternative cosmology that in the end failed to take hold and replace the religious beliefs that never really disappeared during the Soviet period. “A Sacred Space is Never Empty” has been greeted with critical acclaim. Denis Kozlov, author of “The Readers of “Novyi Mir”; Coming to Terms with the Stalinist Past” stated that “This is a very important book, highly innovative and superbly researched. Smolkin has written nothing less than a history of the making - and subsequent unmaking - of soviet atheism. A must-read.”
Vlad and Victoria will be sharing their work at CBSRZ on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 11, beginning at 4 p.m. This opening reception is open to the public at no charge. Vlad’s art will be on display, available for sale, in our CBSRZ Gallery and Victoria’s book will also be available both for sale and for autographing after her talk on the origin of and impetus behind her book. Vlad Smolkin’s exhibit can be viewed Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. from November, through the first three weeks of January, 2019.