August 06

Portfolio: Nava Lubelski

Nava Lubelski

Text by Bara Sapir

I met Nava Lubelski on an artist’s retreat in Johnson, Vermont, at the first supper of the retreat. Over fresh baked bread, we talked about our work, and, as there often is in non-Jewish circles, there was curiosity about the Jewish themes dominating my work. Nava asked me squarely: “why are you interested in Jewish themes?"

Nava did not identify herself as Jewish, yet her work can easily be read as an extension of so many of our bubbes' and zaydes' experiences in the new world. Nava collects old fabrics, shmatas: tablecloths, napkins, dresses, all stained. Whether the stain is identifiable or not, it becomes the inspiration and source of Nava’s expressive journey.

Most of us would balk at the prospects of dealing with discoloration on our clothes, but Nava celebrates it, fastidiously clinging to the forms and random designs that are present, aged, spewed across the fabrics. She creates an obsessive homage through embroidery and stitching. Only lately has she begun to stain the fabrics herself.

Nava's images are sometimes organic, psychedelic, meditative, virused or violent. Her forms create a candid portrait of a moment stuck in time, long past, and we look on, stuck on it, transfixed on the damage made beautiful or odd.

She got into this process from feeling restless with painting, and so for fun began collaging fabric. Then she became interested in the ideas that sewing opened up in an
artistic context. She says, “Painting felt like it was purely form and content because the medium is a given, while sewing could contain ideas just by virtue of the choice to sew and it became fascinating to me to examine what those ideas might be, how they are communicated, etc. And then sewing opened up into more sculptural work, some video, different things, though I am still focused on thread mostly.”

Images by Nava Lubelski. Top: Red See (2004). Bottom: Risky (2002)
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