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April 30, 2004

Mosaics honor heroine

Artist Lilian Broca's Queen Esther Series is stunning.

The opening of the Queen Esther Series, Lilian Broca's current exhibit at the Sidney and Gertrude Zack Gallery, was as much about the beautiful mosaics adorning the gallery's walls as it was about the beautiful person who made them.

"Lilian, besides her art, is what we call a mentsh," said Rabbi Dr. Yosef Wosk at the April 22 event. "She's generous with her time and concerned for others. She's a friend and a teacher, and what I would refer to as a rebbe of the fine arts.

"For her, it's not just art for art's sake – which, at times, is the highest calling – but rather art for the sake of and the benefit of creation," said Wosk, before describing the nature of the human partnership with God as co-creators of the world and the links between the roots of the Hebrew words for art, faith, truth and mother.

"Lilian herself has become the archetypal instrument through which the bibilical women are given voice, form and personality," he added. "She has created what might be called a visual midrash. She doesn't just draw. Lilian is one who studies in depth.... She is a researcher and a recognized independent scholar."

Standing amid Broca's creations as Wosk spoke – not only the mosaics, but the sketches and paintings that preceded them – one could easily relate to his words. The artwork is visually stunning. It is colorful, luminescent and skilfully put together. But what is most compelling is the depth of character that Broca communicates in her depictions of the Purim heroine. Broca's Esther is intelligent, sensual and strong; an ancient role model worth emulating in today's world.

An award-winning artist, Broca has taught for many years, has had more than 60 exhibitions in North America and Europe over the last 30 years, and her works are found in public and private collections around the world. Yet, she remains humble and down-to-earth.

After commenting that Wosk honored her too much in his remarks, an emotional Broca could not hold back her tears. Struggling through them, she said that the Queen Esther Series is something she wanted to do for peace in the world. Esther was a heroine who saved a lot of people without violence, said Broca, adding that Esther didn't go into the role willingly, but nonetheless she became a leader, something Broca called on all women to do.

"Perhaps this is what we need nowadays," she said. "But I also believe that women – not all women, but most women – would not send their sons to war, but fathers will. The mothers won't as much.... So I think that we women should try to do something, each one of us, in any way that we can to save our beautiful planet."

The opening event was organized and led by Reisa Schneider, JCC cultural arts co-ordinator. It also featured the Crescendo Choir, under the direction of conductor and composer Catalin Ursu, performing selections from its repertoire of Renaissance and baroque music.

The Queen Esther Series is at the Zack Gallery until May 19.