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Artist Statement: Karen Shain Schloss

Moral Compass: Artists Respond to Crises

Temple Judea Museum exhibition January – March 2021

Karen Shain Schloss

Beth Sholom Commemoration

Full sized sketch and to-scale final photograph

Last February I was asked by the Executive Director of Beth Sholom Congregation to create a large scale paper cut to commemorate the refurbishing of the synagogues’ 20 Torah scrolls and the new mantles created for them. There were 20 people, families or constituencies who donated to this project and their names and a dedication were to be included in an artful thanks for their generosity.

As the winter progressed and the Pandemic became a nightmare reality, all the ketubot commissions I had for weddings from March through September were cancelled or postponed. I was bereft—for my bridal couples whose dreams of beautiful weddings and ketubot were ended and for myself suddenly faced with no work, no income, and no way to keep myself occupied during the days of isolating dreariness.

Once the Beth Sholom commission was confirmed, I started to explore Frank Lloyd Wright’s geometric interior design and style elements.  I have always been a great admirer of his aesthetic and my inspiration grew the more research I did. One book in particular used a stylized font, a mix of Arts and Crafts Movement and Art Deco. The letters were wonderful! Fully round O’s and C’s, weird S’s exaggeratingly slanted, and very narrow N’s and H’s in particular. I loved these letters! Then came the hard part. Making all the names equal in value with their dedications all of differing lengths, to fit. I got permission to NOT alphabetize the names, and to make a puzzle-like design; (a big concession for a conservative synagogue and a nervous, over-stressed Director!) 

Perhaps another artist would have figured out how to computer generate a design; mathematically measure, layout and fit all the words more easily and better than I, but I am a pencil/ ruler and “erase- til-it-works” kind of “of a certain age” person, and trial and error is my method. A very long slow process.  This piece will hang on Frank Lloyd Wright’s walls. I was thrilled by the assignment and resulting effort. From early June until mid-October I worked daily; no distractions of seeing friends or being social! 

Social Distancing was my savior!