Narratives that explore hope, fear, dramatic change or the chance at a better world are woven through the history of communities throughout the world. Often stories are passed down through generations to help inform us of important events or to pass on some type of moral code from generation to generation. These are stories that, at times, can seem a bit ambiguous or that might have more than one meaning

“My Golem: An Exhibition by Diane Britt,” on view at the Akron Soul Train Gallery through Sept. 13, was created to explore the artist's personal history as well as modern day connections to this character from Jewish folklore. A Golem is an animated anthropomorphic being that is magically created entirely from inanimate matter, like paper or clay, and is supposedly only brought to life through certain secret mystical chants or prayers. While the Golem is a Jewish creation, its cultural influence is widespread. It appears in different types of literature and film. Though sometimes it is depicted as a less-than-perfect being, or more accurately, a being that follows direction without the ability to make decisions on its own, it still most often comes to the rescue of the oppressed and tormented.

Britt was the June 2019 artist in residence for Akron Soul Train, a program connecting and empowering the community and artists by granting fellowships that provide resources for all creative disciplines to foster a more vibrant downtown Akron. The exhibit features several individual works or studies exploring the Golem form and documenting the artist’s attempts to make Golems and better understand Britt's personal connection to the folklore.

“My Golem” is a large human form made of overbeaten flax paper. The Golem is nearly life size and has something akin to a head and a mouth, but no arms or legs. It is resting inside an open travel trunk that also has a tallit or prayer shawl in it and different handmade paper forms litter the ground around the trunk. Because of the human shape of the sculpture, it’s not difficult to start forming a narrative around the piece. The Golem itself has a neutral buff color because of the flax paper used to create it. The effect looks something akin to dirty bandages and is frankly not very inviting to spend a lot of time with.

“Golem Study #7” is made with watercolor pigment on handmade flax paper. This is a drawing of a Golem form made with paper looking from the head down over the body as it is lying on the ground. Even with the extreme angle, and no arms or legs on the Golem, the form still reads as almost human in shape. This “almost human” style of the Golem forms and studies in the exhibit helps to bring attention to parts of the folklore around the Golem — especially the idea that while the Golem might be created to help people, and looks a lot like a person, it is important to remember it’s not exactly human.

“Golem Study #8” is made with watercolor pigment on handmade flax paper. This is also a drawing or study of a Golem form made with paper. Instead of looking from the top of the head down the body, this work is looking from the bottom of this particular form, which also appears to have been cut off off or not totally configured below the waist.

It’s a large, empty cut paper oval shape with a small bit of light at the end. It calls to mind many different ideas, including the Golem’s lack of being truly human and even the idea that this type of creature does not have a soul.

The drawing studies included in the exhibit stand out from the other work featured because of the artists choice in color, which is a limited palette ranging in the color of the paper to very dark gray. Also the drawings are strong in how they highlight the different shapes of the Golem form which begins to create and describe a narrative of why a creature like this might be created and what effect it has on the people who spend time with it.

Exhibits like “My Golem: An Exhibition by Diane Britt,” are extremely important to visit and support. Regardless of whether you find the work successful or not, this show is the result of meaningful artistic research being done in and supported by our community. This type of deep investigation helps to foster critical thinking and raises the bar for what we can hope to expect of artists living in our area.  Through organizations like Akron Soul Train, Akron is able to develop local talent and foster more meaningful artwork and conversations about that artwork throughout the city.

 

Contact Anderson Turner at haturner3@gmail.com