August 06

Portfolio: Nava Lubelski
by Nava Lubelski
p. 2 of 3

Can the craft of sewing ascend to ‘art’ status? This is a question Nava ponders. No stranger to the artistic life, she finished college and worked in the film industry, then in 2005 received a grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts and a Full Fellowship residency at the Vermont Studio Center in 2006, where we met. Her tongue-in-cheek art history and craft projects book, The Starving Artist's Way, was published by Three Rivers Press in 2004, is another homage of her moving between high and low culture.

Lubelski isn’t overt about her influences, though she enjoys conceptual artists like Yoko Ono and humorous, obsessive artists like Tim Hawkinson. Arte Povera is something that is close to her heart, especially because of the sewing, but she didn't discover that movement until she had already started on this kind of work.

Nava Lubelski was born and raised in New York City where she grew up around Jewish culture, but not much religion. Her father, born in Europe, grew up speaking Yiddish. He emigrated with his parents and other surviving relatives in 1950. She understood a bit of the language and knew Yiddish songs and stories from when they celebrated holidays; puppets and costumes for Purim, Yiddish songs and poems at Passover.

But her family had been secular for many generations on both sides, even back in Europe, so they didn't go to Temple except for Yom Kippur. Then her parents dragged
her to the only place within walking distance, an Orthodox shul she remembers as a glum experience of organized Judaism.

She didn't associate Hebrew with being Jewish; her culture was Yiddish, and not in what she calls, “the kitschy American way." Her family was just off the boat and still European. They didn’t have Hanukah bushes or gefilte fish from a jar. She also remembers a lot of sadness from the trauma of the Holocaust. There were many memorial markers in her Jewish experience. She relays that her family would stand up to sing the Yiddish "song of the partisans" at Passover.

Images by Nava Lubelski. Top: Jewel 4 (2004). Second: Out the Back (2002) Third: The City (2004). Bottom: The Net (2004)