Dr. Ori Z. Soltes to deliver the inaugural Samuel and Bettie Roberts Lecture on Jewish art and artists at Fairfield University


Fairfield University's Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies of the College of Arts and Sciences presents its Inaugural Samuel and Bettie Roberts Lecture on Jewish Art and Artists with Ori Z. Soltes, Ph.D., the Goldman Professorial Lecturer in the Theology and Fine Arts Department at Georgetown University, on Wednesday, April 11.

Former director and curator of the B'nai B'rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum in Washington, D.C., Dr. Soltes will deliver a talk entitled "Fixing the World: Jewish Artists in America," which will center around his most recent book, "Fixing the World: Jewish American Painters in the Twentieth Century." Tikkun olam, meaning the repair of the world, speaks to a Jewish desire to fix the world by way of bettering society or speaking out against racism and violence, is a common theme among the paintings of this era.

In the book, Dr. Soltes explores how Jewish art relates to Jewish identity, delving into the abundance of work by Jews in the 20th century. His examination of little known and famous artists, including Joyce Ellen Weinstein and Ben Shahn, is also a survey of how culture, society and history inspired Jewish painters. Dr. Soltes wrote that through their art, they convey the "fact of being American and Jewish - and the question of what those two words mean in the larger context of art."

In an ART News review of the book, it was noted, "In this informative and insightful book...Soltes applies a keen eye and perceptive esthetic sensibility to brief essays about both native-born and immigrant artists who have explored subjects ranging from immigration and urban society to the Holocaust and to spiritual yearnings."

The lecture will take place in the Charles F. Dolan School of Business dining room, located on the Fairfield campus, at 7:30 p.m. The public is invited. Admission is free, but seating is limited. Please call to register for a seat at (203) 254-4000, ext. 2066.

The bi-annual Samuel and Bettie Roberts Lecture on Jewish Art and Artists has been made possible through the generosity of the late couple's children, Larry Roberts and Suzanne Novik. Sam and Bettie, longtime Fairfield residents, were longtime contributors to the University and the Judaic Studies program and accomplished artists. The endowment also allows for a course to be taught in Jewish art and artists.

Sam's works of flowers and plants and several of Bettie's classical portraits and still lifes were featured in a show entitled "Contemporary Realism," which was on view at the Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery at Fairfield University in 2001.

Ellen M. Umansky, Ph.D., the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Professor of Judaic Studies, said the endowment given by the couple's children honors their memory and their love of the arts. "For the first lecture, we set out to invite someone to give a broad overview of Jewish art. Dr. Soltes is a perfect choice in that respect. He plans to explain what is Jewish art, and explore the themes and concerns of Jewish painters."

Dr. Soltes has two books in the works, including "Untangling the Tangled Web: A Brief Guide to the Problematic of the Middle East," and "Beyond Heaven and Earth: Mysticism in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim Traditions."

While director of the B'nai B'rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum, he was the curator of more than 80 exhibitions. He has taught and lectured at 23 universities and museums throughout the country, on subjects ranging from the Arab-Israeli conflict to Ancient Art. Both before and since his years as a museum director, he served as a guest curator for exhibitions across the United States and abroad.

Dr. Soltes earned a Ph.D. from Union Institute and University, an A.B.D. from Johns Hopkins University, an M.A. from Princeton University, and a B.A. from Haverford College. He is the author of articles, exhibition catalogues, essays and books on a wide range of topics, and the writer, director and narrator of thirty documentary videos. His books include "Our Sacred Signs: Art in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim Traditions," and "The Ashen Rainbow: Essays on the Arts and the Holocaust."

Bettie Roberts was a member of the Connecticut Classic Arts for 25 years. The winner of several awards, she exhibited in five solo and several juried shows throughout Fairfield County, including the Barnum Arts Festival, the Bridgeport Art League and the Stamford Art Association. Sam Roberts, a native of Poland, was a local real estate developer and photographer.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on March 26, 2007

Vol. 39, No. 188