Maya Escobar is a living Jew.
Currently pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts at Washington University, Maya was generously loaned to St. Louis by the rest of world Jewry.
From West Rogers Park, Chicago, where the young artists was raised, a Reconstructionist in an Orthodox neighborhood.
From Guatemala, where her father evaded political unrest and violence.
From Berlin, where she found new Jewish identity springing from the ashes. An identity that refused to be wholly tied to a catastrophic event of death and destruction, and prefers to be seen through life and creation.
Maya considers herself an educator before an artist, and her art is proof of that. Her latest project, entitled 'Berlin's Eruv'is about "the changing face of Jewish identity as delineated through social spaces" and contains interviews with members of the Berlin community. Just listening to the audio she provides online opens one up to a world far from the comforts of American Jewry.
Which is the point, says Maya. In America, she explains, you don't really have to acknowledge being Jewish, whereas in Europe, it is a fight for identity, a struggle.
Maya went on to explain that she is really looking to elucidate what it means to 'be a stranger in a strange land', and that the answer for these Jews is far different than our might be.
In challenging what it means to be a Jew, and including narratives that haven't traditionally been part of the (Ashkenazi) mainstream identity, Maya expands the notion of Jewish identity and creates a space for discussion and education.
Part of this comes from her own experience, and having the identifier, 'Jew of Color' placed on her. By being effectively 'raced', and made exotic, there is a lot of potential for her work to be put in a box, but after you spend some time with the art itself, you find the ideas are too big to be contained.
Truly, then, this is the work of a living Jew.
Maya's Hiddur Napkin (a hand embroidered challah cover), can be viewed at the Bruno David Gallery called Over View _08, (Jul 11- Aug 23) *
In late September, a survey of her work will be on display at Washington University in St. Louis. "This solo show is thematically centered around art education functioning as a catalyst in promoting cross-curricular and intercollegiate discourse. As a facet of this exhibition, she will be leading a series of lectures and workshops for undergraduate students in the following departments: Jewish Studies, Women and Gender Studies, Cultural Anthropology, and Latin American Studies."
Additionally, Maya will be working with Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation this fall to create a multi-media, interactive Jewish Time Line at the Synagogue.
Check out Maya's Blog and stay tuned for future updates about Maya and her work.