Works by Olivia Guterson Nowhere to Go But Back to Myself (left) and Untitled
Works by Olivia Guterson Nowhere to Go But Back to Myself (left) and Untitled

“18” Exhibit at the Janice Charach Gallery runs through March 1.

Eighteen abstract artists are expressing associations with the often-mystical number 18 as they participate in an exhibit running through March 1 at the Janice Charach Gallery in the West Bloomfield Jewish Community Center.

Olivia Guterson
Olivia Guterson

The one-word title,“18,” opens up to a variety of thoughts as artists present more than one work to express the vast number of reactions linked to the number significant in the Jewish religion and beyond.

The approximately 75 works on display have been formed by paintings, mixed media and sculpture.

“This exhibit reflects on the number 18 and its implications,” said Rebecca Reeder, gallery assistant director and show curator. “In the Jewish numerological tradition of gematria, the number 18 has long been viewed as corresponding to the Hebrew word chai, meaning life.

“The number also can represent balance, good fortune and luck. It has special importance in Jewish Kabbalah, with mystical interpretations of Judaism.”

Reeder, who reports that she did considerable research in the past year to prepare for this exhibit, said she learned the number 18 has special significance in numerology.

She explained it is noted that many people in China consider 18 very auspicious as a number. In the tarot deck, she said, the number often is associated with the moon as a symbol of mystery and intuition.

Of the 18 artists in the exhibit, Olivia Guterson has formed three works to fit in with the theme. Guterson, a master’s degree student at Cranbrook Academy of Art who has shown earlier work at the Charach Gallery, has used paint and some mixed media to communicate her approach to the number.

“Rebecca and Natalie Balazovich, gallery director, reached out to me last year as they were talking about this idea of developing a show around 18, and I thought that was fantastic,” Guterson said. “There’s a deep Jewish passion to that number and being invited to participate was such an honor.

“I met them when they were doing a three-part show around environment last year. I was looking at what is happening and solutions. It was an impactful conversation about our roles in the way the world is changing.”

Guterson, whose artistic interests have been strong and taken in part from her father’s Jewish family, defines herself as multicultural. She remembers a lifelong interest in art and drawing early images of her brother and sister.

She earned business credits instead of artistic ones at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, as the route to supporting herself. She moved to Ann Arbor after growing up in the states of New Mexico and Washington.

Guterson, who describes giving time to prayer and meditation, involves the number 18 in those experiences.

“All of my work pays homage to my grandmother who was Jewish,” Guterson said. “She was a big quilter and made a lot of different crafts and beautiful handiwork. It’s really important that my work gets to be in front of a Jewish audience.”

The Way This Body Can Break
The Way This Body Can Break

One of Guterson’s works is called The Way This Body Can Break. It is about the process of living. The artist wants to suggest that people are constantly rebuilding, growing and changing. That is a huge part of being Jewish, the artist has asserted.

Another work is titled Nowhere to Go But Back to Myself. This speaks to ancestral lineage. She has voiced a desire to be a good ancestor and also a good descendant.

The last piece is untitled.  It represents a celebration by working with beads, referencing that it’s about remembering, being and celebrating.

“I’ve always taken art very seriously,” Guterson said.  “Every day, when I came home from my job in corporate America, I would paint. I did that for 12 years, three to five hours a night.”

Guterson, 32, kept her completed work in a portfolio and used the materials to apply at Cranbrook. She has shown her work at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD).

“I want people to know how important art is,” Guterson said. “It’s the way people can tell their stories and connect. I think it’s a huge tool of getting through and surviving. I hope people nurture their creativity and share it if they want to.”

The exhibit “18” will be on view through March 1 at the Janice Charach Gallery in the West Bloomfield Jewish Community Center. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday-Thursday or by appointment.
(248) 432-5579.

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