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By Henry Diamond

Garnethill Synagogue will be one of six locations in Glasgow to feature in a major art exhibition devised by four American artists and one from Canada, all leading figures in art and design colleges.

“This will be the first exhibition of its kind in the UK,” says Professor Nicholas Kripal of the Department of Painting and Sculpture, Tyler School of Art, Pennsylvania. “We chose Glasgow as the venue as it is a wonderful centre of architectural importance and beauty.”

 Contemplation on the Spiritual is scheduled to run for the month of April this year. The five other venues are St Margaret’s Church, Newlands; the Cloisters, Glasgow University; Glasgow Cathedral,  Scotus College and Glasgow School of Art.

The exhibition will form part of Glasgow University’s 550th anniversary celebrations. Some of the exhibits will be flown from the United States, other heavier artifacts will come by sea and others will be assembled on site.

 Professor Kripal proposes to erect in the synagogue forecourt a terra cotta or concrete maze 48 inches in diameter which will “catch and contain rain water and will utilise the format of the round window above the main entrance and the design/architectureal elements from within the interior of the synagogue to create a maze which will reference the positioning and function of the window in the structure of the synagogue.”

Professor Jo Yarrington, Associate Professor of Studio Art and chair person of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at Fairfield University, Connecticut, says, “I will randomly choose eight active women members and interview them about their former synagogue ‘neighbours.’

 “Using this information I will create memorials to past worshipers. Over each of the storage portions of the eight formerly occupied seats will be placed photographic transparencies which will only be visible to those who lift the hinged panels. The ephemeral images, illuminated by interior lights, will reference the stories told by the active members - secrets and whispers of a past not yet forgotten.”

Associate Professor Jeffrey Mongrain of Hunter College, New York, will also contribute to the Garnethill project. He says he is considering two possible discreet sculptural additions to the ladies gallery:

 The other artists participating in the exhibition, but not necessarily to the Garnethill element, are  Alan Greenberg, Tyler School of Art, and Associate Professor Therese Chabot of Concordia University, Montreal,
 Professor Yarrington says the exhibition is “an interdisciplinary response to architectural spaces which have been devoted to religious worship.  Through their sculptures and installations, the artists seek to establish a dialogue with the chapels and churches to which the exhibition will travel. Employing a variety of methods, including adapting existing architectural elements and introducing new sculptural objects, the artists will temporarily transform the existing spaces. Some of these transformations will be subtle, while others will have a strong physical presence.”

Mr Gerald Levin, president of Garnethill Synagogue, says, “The choice of our synagogue as one of the venues for this major exhibition is very gratifying and confirms our place as Scotland’s leading Jewish house of worship.”

A series of seminars will be held at each of the exhibition sites.  Among the speakers will be Dr Harry Rand of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, who “has worked extensively as a Jewish scholar on the Jewish  Bible.”

At the end of the exhibition, the works will be removed and the spaces returned to their original condition.

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