Sculpting A Life: Chana Orloff Between Paris and Tel Aviv
In this talk, Paula Birnbaum introduces her forthcoming book, Sculpting a Life, the first biography of sculptor Chana Orloff (1888-1968), and the first work to include stories from her unpublished memoir. Birnbaum pulls from a series of interviews in 1957 by the late Israeli journalist, Rivka Katznelson, which focused on the artist’s early life in Ukraine, her family’s move to Palestine and Orloff’s life there from 1905–10, and her years in Paris through World War I. Orloff’s multiple migrations and forced exiles, combined with her gender and Jewish identities, had a cumulative effect. Although transnationalism evades easy definition, Birnbaum shows how this framing lends itself to new directions in the study of Orloff’s life and work. It also proposes a new model for investigating artists’ lives and works, especially women and gender nonconforming artists, who may also identify as multinational or placeless. Women like Orloff have been overlooked by history and excluded from the canon of modernism within art history. Sculpting a Life brings Orloff to the forefront and shows her historical and artistic significance.
Paula J. Birnbaum is Professor of Art History and Academic Director of the Museum Studies M.A. Program at University of San Francisco. She has published extensively on twentieth-century French women artists, contributing most recently to the exhibition catalogue, Pionnières: Artistes dans le Paris des années folles (Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux, 2022). She is the author of Women Artists in Interwar France: Framing Femininities (Ashgate/Routledge, 2011), among other titles. This talk draws from Professor Birnbaum’s new book, Sculpting a Life: Chana Orloff Between Paris and Tel Aviv, forthcoming with Brandeis University Press in January 2023.