Art comes in scraps and gold Artisans display at Jewish Festival

May 24, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

About 40 years ago, Nathan Barr took a knife to a piece of wood and began carving.

"It was probably pine or walnut, or something fairly common," recalled Mr. Barr, one of 50 exhibitors displaying their wares yesterday at the fifth annual Annapolis Jewish Festival.

Over the years, the retired salesman from Silver Spring kept carving, and the result has been hundreds of Menorahs, Stars of David, and other shapes, both religious and secular, that he shows off and peddles at fairs and festivals throughout Maryland.

He carves wooden puzzles of animals for children and Stars of David for grown-ups.

He does it because he enjoys it. And, he says, it makes good use of what others have tossed aside.

"It's scrap wood nobody wants from construction sites. I guess you could say it's recycling wood into an art form," said Mr. Barr, standing amid his collection in the auditorium of the Kneseth Israel Synagogue.

Yesterday's festival, at the synagogue on Spa Road and Hilltop Lane, attracts about 2,000 people each year, said Gail Snyder, executive vice president of the synagogue.

This year, hundreds of people came from throughout Maryland to listen to Jewish music, sample Jewish foods and shop for Jewish artifacts, jewelry and arts and crafts in gold, leather, wood and canvas.

Dozens of parents brought children, who enjoyed story-tellers, pony rides, face-painting and art booths featuring colored sand in bottles.

"We'd been to the zoo, we'd been to the aquarium. We wanted to find something a little different," said Karen Kurland of Baltimore, as she watched her daughter Allison dismount after a pony ride.

The art included the works of Menachem Boas, an Australian-born artist, who deals in micrography, a traditionally Jewish art form from the Ninth Century that uses minute Hebrew letters to form striking, mosaic-like designs.

XTC Mr. Boas displayed artworks both religious and worldly. Next to his micrograph of flowers in a vase was one of Moses parting the Red Sea. His limited edition, framed lithographs carried price tags of $750. Smaller prints went for $100.

"What it does is combine the best of the artistic world with the religious," said Allen Polinsky, a New York sales representative, who came to yesterday's festival to sell Mr. Boas' works.

Not everything for sale was quite so sublime.

Alvin Shayt of Belcamp displayed a half-dozen model airplanes made from cutting up soda and beer cans.

Each plane, whether made from a Sprite, Pepsi or Budweiser can, takes about three hours to make from about eight cans.

The planes cost $16.

Mr. Shayt, a retired newspaper editor who turned to the craft about two months ago, said he goes through about 300 cans a week, collecting most of them in his neighborhood.

He also enlisted children to help him get cans, offering them 5 cents a can.

He said that while the airplanes are nearly identical in shape and size, he looks at each one as "a thing of beauty."

When he takes his scissors and knife to a can, he says, he has the same goal as any artist -- the struggle for self-expression.

It is an art form with its own special challenges.

"The hardest part," he said, "is cleaning the gunk out of the cans."

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