Sunday, November 20, 2016
Yahrzeit: In Memory of Oscar Wolfman (1955-2011)
Five years ago on November 21, we lost a brilliant gay outsider artist whose work, as he was fond of saying, was “too queer for Jews and too Jewish for queers.” It’s a great line, but the reception of his two solo shows, “Midrash,” in 2010, and “Entartete Kunst,” in 2011 just weeks before his death, witnessed to the power his lush, often cryptic, sometimes outrageous photography held for audiences that included queers, Jews, Jewish queers, and fellow travellers looking for our own Promised Land.
The only son of Holocaust survivors, raised in Montreal, a dancer, choreographer, chef, graduate student, and teacher, he came to photography late. His deep knowledge of European art, and especially of seventeenth-century of Italian painting; his immersion in Torah and Talmud; his inexhaustible love for the beauty of men and his provocative, shame-deflating celebration of their erotic energy; his wry sense of camp, which was at once just Jewish and just queer enough; a luminous faith in the holiness of the body, and of embodied pleasure and desire--all these emerge in work that those of us who remember him for his brilliant, generous, quirky, courtly self are determined will not pass into oblivion.
Traditional commemoration of the Yarhzeit--the anniversay of a loved one’s death--is made by reciting the Kaddish, the prayer on behalf of the dead, and by lighting a candle that will burn for twenty-four hours. It’s reckoned among the Orthodox according to the Hebrew calendar. But as queer a Jew and as Jewish a queer as Oscar was, I can’t believe he’d object to this alternative commemoration: the posting here of one of his images each day for the next month, from tomorrow until the Winter Solstice on December 21.
GLORIFIED AND SANCTIFIED BE THE HOLY ONE'S GREAT NAME, THROUGHOUT THE WORLD CREATED ACCORDING TO THE DIVINE WILL. ESTABLISHED BE GOD'S KINGDOM IN YOUR LIFETIME AND DURING YOUR DAYS, AND WITHIN THE LIFE OF ALL HUMANKIND, SPEEDILY AND SOON, AND LET US SAY, AMEN.
MAY GOD'S GREAT NAME BE BLESSED FOREVER AND TO ALL ETERNITY.
BLESSED AND PRAISED, GLORIFIED AND EXALTED, EXTOLLED AND HONORED, ADORED AND LAUDED BE THE NAME OF THE HOLY ONE, BLESSED BE THAT ONE BEYOND ALL BLESSINGS AND HYMNS, PRAISES AND CONSOLATIONS THAT ARE EVER SPOKEN IN THE WORLD, AND LET US SAY, AMEN.
MAY THERE BE ABUNDANT PEACE FROM HEAVEN AND LIFE FOR US AND FOR ALL MEN, AND LET US SAY AMEN.
MAY GOD WHO CREATES PEACE IN THE CELESTIAL HEIGHTS CREATE PEACE FOR US AND FOR ALL THE WORLD, AND LET US SAY, AMEN.