A few of the questions I struggled with at the beginning of my research on Jewish art history were "what is Jewish art?", "does that even exist?", "who is a Jewish artist?". As I continued my research and developed my own theories, I figured that it was not important if the work of art was done by a Jewish artist for it to be considered Jewish art. I had quite a few examples to validate my point. For instance, Salvador Dalí's Aliyah: The Rebirth of Israel series, which portrays the struggles of the Jewish people to return to their homeland, is an example of Jewish art. Yes, Dalí was a Surrealist artist with a Catholic background but he created this series using a Jewish theme and therefore created Jewish art. Is he considered a Jewish artist? no, the greater body of his work is not connected to Jewish culture at all and he is not part of that ethnoreligious group either.
Well, what about the opposite? a Jewish artist that does not create Jewish art? - lots more examples! Amadeo Modigliani, Alfred Stieglitz, Judy Chicago, Louise Nevelson, Mark Rothko, Audrey Flack + thousands more (and counting). Most artists with a Jewish background allude, at some point of their lives, to their heritage. Judy Chicago is known for being a Feminist artist and she has created several works that deal with Judaism and Jewish history. Audrey Flack is a photorealist artist and considers her WWII piece from the Vanitas Series to be her capolavoro. However, in the broader sense both women are not thought of as "Jewish artists". I could write a lot more examples, but you get the gist.
In February of 2012, while I attended the Jewish art session at the College Art Association's 100th conference in L.A, scholar Celka Straughn caught my attention by helping me think about these questions in a better way. Straughn said that instead of asking "what is Jewish art?" or "who is a Jewish artist?", we should ask "how or why is it Jewish art?". As things in the contemporary world become more diverse, complex and fused, I think that Straughn has given many of us the key to think about these types of "definitions" in an open way. After all, this not only applies to Jewish art. But will we insist in pigeonholing artists and their creations? Time will tell.
NOTE: For Vivian Calderon Bogoslasvky's post scroll down until you get to a stub titled: Talento Colombiano.