Taos Fiesta by Lisa Burge

Two artists with Israeli backgrounds are returning to this year’s Ann Arbor Art Fair — one showing paintings that include Jewish themes and another showing an array of jewelry with Jewish themes available by special order.

They will be among 1,000 artists spread out across 39 city blocks July 20-23, when some 400,000 visitors will be able to browse and choose original designs worked through many media, including glass, wood, metal and photography.

Mira Raman, who makes her own paper and is known for “happy” images, often sits on her Tel Aviv balcony creating outdoor scenes with small flowers and animals and indoor scenes that reflect a Jewish household.

“My paintings have a three-dimensional effect because of the way the paper is made,” Raman explains. “I’ve shown a lot of little flowers since studying Japanese painting styles, but the flowers are indigenous to Israel.”

Raman does not consider her approach as brushing paint. Using acrylics, she considers her technique as putting paint on paper.

“As a child, I painted all the time,” she says. “I studied art in college and taught high school before teaching teachers.”

Raman, who lived in Maryland while her late husband worked as a shaliach, also studied at Johns Hopkins. She returns to America to participate in fairs and now travels to about seven a year.

“I’ve found that artists are treated the best in Ann Arbor,” says Raman, who appears at the South University Area Art Fair and will be surrounded by demonstrations, food services and entertainment as four separate fairs join forces in one large event.

Ayala Naphtali will be at the Street Art Fair, the Original, with necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings. Her brooches with contemporary Passover symbols are available through online orders.

Giving distinction to her work is the use of covered coconut shells combined with silver enhancements. She has a minimalist approach with bold, elegant forms.

“I’ve been using coconut shells since the late 1980s,” says Naphtali, who works out of a Brooklyn studio. “I like coloring my own materials, and I don’t have to use toxic materials with the shells. I also like the idea of renewables.”

Naphtali, who grew up in New York and Tel Aviv, moved around as the result of her dad’s work in chemical engineering. He earned his master’s and doctorate degrees at the University of Michigan.

“I try to keep my jewelry very lightweight so it’s comfortable,” says Naphtali, who tracked down where her dad lived in the 1950s and showed her son. “Pieces are in museum shops all across the country.”

Naphtali, who comes from a long line of metalsmiths on her father’s side, is related to Israeli wholesale jewelers on her mother’s side.

While living in New York, she took classes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She went on to the Fashion Institute of Technology and the State University of New York at New Paltz.

“I’ll have close to a couple hundred pieces in Ann Arbor,” she says. “I have a wide price range.”

Lisa Burge, also in the Original art fair, shows abstract oil paintings and prints. Based in New Mexico, she is in her 15th year showcasing work in Ann Arbor.

“I use muted colors, but my images have grown brighter over the years,” she says. “I am inspired by nature, architecture and what I’ve seen in travels around the world.”

Interested in art all her life, Burge has studied at universities in Colorado and New Mexico. She grew up in Denver, has lived in Tawas for 36 years and uses a second studio in Kansas City because of all the traveling she does.

“I do 12-14 fairs a year,” says Burge, who does not bring her Reform Jewish background into her projects. She works with acrylics and oil paints on canvas to come up with paintings.

“I like talking to people at the fairs and the camaraderie with the artists on the road,” she explains. “I love the traveling and drive my work in a van. I feel it’s an honor to be accepted into the fairs.”

Those who know Hebrew can read Aaron Miller’s first name on a necklace he wears although he does not identify as Jewish. The necklace is in recognition of Jewish heritage and family members who invite him to share religious celebrations.

Miller, who lives in Beverly Hills and works out of a Detroit studio, looks forward through his art, which is digital. His projects range from large murals to decorative skateboards and T-shirts.

“I take little bits from photos and combine them into large pieces,” he explains. “I studied business at Wayne State University and taught myself this kind of art. When I was young, I wanted to be a painter, but there are advantages, like being quick, with digital.”

Miller, who will be experiencing his first year in Ann Arbor at the State Street Art Fair, has been doing custom work. For example, he has designed murals for Farbman Group offices.

“I’ll be showing all kinds of art at the fair,” says Miller, who regularly can be accessed through the Rust Belt Market in Ferndale. “I’ll have Detroit and Michigan themes as well as surreal subjects.”

The Ann Arbor Art Fair, which includes four fairs in one, runs July 20-23 throughout the city.
For complete information, visit theannarbortartfair.com.

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Suzanne Chessler’s writing-editing career has spanned many years, and her articles have been featured in secular and religious publications across the state and around the country. There was a period of time when she maintained three regular columns in three different publications – one appearing weekly to spotlight metro volunteers, another appearing weekly to profile stage enthusiasts in community theater and a third appearing bimonthly to showcase upcoming arts programs. Besides doing general reporting, she has had continuing assignments involving health, monetary subjects and crime. Her award-winning work builds on majors in English-speech and journalism earned at Wayne State University, where instructors also were writers-editors on Detroit’s daily newspapers.