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Casting Out Grief

The Kidnapped, an installation which honors Israelis held captive in Gaza

Photos by Arik Rubenshtein 

The artist, Deborah Dworman Sullum 69

Artist Deborah Dworman Sullum's latest works originally served as a catharsis to channel her grief over a personal tragedy. Her nephew's death, in a plane crash in New York in January 2023, unfurled Sullum's sense of loss. After the events of Israel's Black Shabbat on October 7, 2023, Sullum used her artistic skills to create additional pieces which depicted the collective grief that all Israelis were experiencing over the raging conflict. Her "Who by Fire" exhibit, on display at the Chagall Art Gallery in Haifa from December 23, 2023 through January 25, 2024, was inspired by Leonard Cohen's iconic song. Sullum stated that Cohen's haunting lyrics accompanied her on her journey, and thus influenced every aspect of her latest body of work.

Sullum's art is not confined to one medium. Sandblasted scenes, X-rays, casted beeswax molds, glasswork, scavenged window frames and door panels, are all part of her eclectic visual storytelling. Her images are stark, subtle, and soulful.

Sullum's rendering of her nephew, Benjamin Chafetz, shows him wearing a red shirt with an "S," to invoke Superman. Chafetz, age 45, was a highly regarded member of Cleveland, Ohio's Jewish community and a devoted husband and father to six children. Sullum's sister and Benjamin's mother, Beverly Dworman Chafetz, is an artist in her own right. Sadly, she is also a long time sufferer of dementia. Sullum incorporates one of Beverly's self-portraits and frames it using images from actual brain scans. She repeats this metaphor of X-rays in several works related to her sister.

The two centerpieces of Sullum's exhibit are in connection with our collective consciousness. Sullum casted beeswax figures which represent each fallen Israeli soldier, a precious life lost. Sullum has been shaken by the magnitude of these losses and cannot always keep up, based on the sheer numbers of soldiers who have perished to date.

There is also a glass mobile with one hundred and twenty-nine glass pieces. Each glass sun catcher reflects the life of a hostage. Sullum said that it was incumbent upon her to be a voice for the living and to keep the flame of hope alive through her work.

At the age of nine, Sullum began her lifelong love affair with Israel while on a family vacation in 1964. She visited her brother during his semester abroad at the Hebrew University. Sullum returned to Israel for a summer at a kibbutz in 1970. She convinced her parents to allow her to extend her stay and study during her junior year of high school at the Molly Goodman Academic High School in Ashkelon. Sullum met her husband Daniel during this time in Israel. They built a life together in Allentown, Pennsylvania and were actively involved in the city's Jewish community. Sullum and her husband finally realized their dream and made Aliyah, along with their four daughters, in 1995. Having served as an art teacher at the Anglican International School in Jerusalem for 25 years, Sullum is also an art therapist and has exhibited her artwork at multiple venues in Jerusalem. The Sullums moved to Haifa's bohemian enclave, Bat Galim, five years ago, where Deborah maintains an art studio at her residence.

Shema Israel, The Fallen Installation

Deborah Dworman Sullum can be contacted at 050 781 3749.

Gayle Greenhut Schwartz is an ESOL Teacher, Writer, Haifa resident, aliyah 2012. 


Comments 2

Guest - Linda Rich on Sunday, 07 April 2024 16:55

Beautifully written, Gayle. What an amazing exhibit this must be! Hoping and praying that it delivers a sense of peace to all who are able to see it. Best wishes, to all.

Beautifully written, Gayle. What an amazing exhibit this must be! Hoping and praying that it delivers a sense of peace to all who are able to see it. Best wishes, to all.
Guest - Loralee Pawel on Monday, 08 April 2024 12:21

Great Story Gayle鈥ravo 馃グ

Great Story Gayle鈥ravo 馃グ
Saturday, 20 July 2024

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