Ashkenazi Rollercoaster Exodus Into/Out Of The West Bank

By Emily Miller

Ashkenazi Rollercoaster Exodus Into/Out Of The West Bank” (2016)

| 54×68 | in Oil, acrylic, spray paint, and cut paper on canvas

Ashkenazi Rollercoaster Exodus Into/Out Of The West Bank” is a West Bank Dream-scape. A stereotypical religious Jewish family from Brooklyn is transplanted into the middle of occupied territory. They do not operate in a specific time. The energy is the same whether it is second century CE or present. Their wandering is fluid and their direction is unknown and boundless. Some members of the family walk with conviction, others turn back, some are ghostly versions of their former selves. They are red-handed and guilty. The children on bikes play many roles; they are their children and their future children, widening a posse to make a mark upon the land. The children are also the detractors of this family. They surround and demonize these wanderers, going to devious lengths to confuse their pace. Their faces are varied and slightly evil; their hats are checkered and invoke notions of racing, capitalism, gain, order, and speed. The colors of the hats represent unknown teams. Some of these teams may be warring. In the upper left corner of the painting, a child in Gaza marvels at the destruction of his former home. In the upper right, a character of blue and white drives a tractor over a group of protestors with signs reading “Stand with Susiya” into an exploding abyss. Towards the upper mid-section of the painting, a burning rainbow fades as its base is “pink washed.” The rainbow guards an image of explosions in an ambiguous West Bank city. Throughout the painting, olives and olive branches pound the air and earth. I was inspired by the brave Israeli and Palestinian artists, such as Sigalit Landau and Khaled Jarrer, who use olives aggressively in their work to reference elements of Palestine. Olives and their harvesting, being a crucial component to Palestinian culture, can act as bombs, forces of peace, signs of life, and other motifs. In my painting, the olives are paradoxical forces of war and peace. They hover over actual smoke caused by weapons, attempting to smother the destruction, but they also linger over the heads of this family– their fates unknown. The rocks are monsters– they are thrown at soldiers by fiercely angry youth, and they are thrown at secular people who drive on Shabbat by misguided and impassioned religious people. Here, a rock sits in the lower right corner of the piece, waiting to pop the tire of one of the bike-riders. “Ashkenazi Rollercoaster Exodus Into/Out Of The West Bank” does not intend to represent a specific, hardline political stand (other than obvious criticism of occupation)– it aims to promote the extensive cast of characters, identities, and symbols that exist in any image or conversation about this disputed region. It playfully and surrealistically perpetuates the ambiguity of the players in this situation.

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