Kaufman serves up food and faith with art residency program

Jared Kaufman holds two of his posters designed and printed during this artist residency at The Grand Cellar Press. Kaufman’s print project highlighted the seven foods recognized in The Torah.

NEW ULM – For the last two weeks, The Grand’s latest artist-in-residence Jared Kaufman, has been working on an ambitious printmaking project combining Hebrew traditions and the connection with food.

Kaufman is a food writer with the St. Paul Pioneer Press and in his spare time, he indulges in the print arts. He decided to combine these two interests during his residency in the Cellar Press by starting a project based on the seven species recognized in The Torah.

Kaufman said The Torah there were seven species, or foods, that were of significant importance to early Jews. The seven foods were wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

Kaufman’s project was to use Cellar Press resources to create seven posters representing each of the foods. The idea is to examine how food intersects with people.

“What’s so interesting about food is it’s more than what we eat,” Kaufman said. “It is what we care about. You can learn a lot about what we do and do not eat.”

Jared Kaufman sets wood lettering blocks in the printing press located in The Grand’s Cellar Press. Kaufman is using specially wood lettering blocks featuring the Hebrew alphabet.

Kaufman said over the generations, the Jewish tradition has attributed certain characteristics to the seven species. For example, wheat was connected to love and kindness and barley is connected to strength and community.

Kaufman said in designing the posters he was trying to incorporate these attributes as well as text from The Torah and other Hebrew teachings.

“For wheat, I was trying to think about the concept of kindness and what that meant to the world,” Kaufman said. “The giving of food is often considered an act of generosity or love.”

For other posters, it was more of a challenge. With the barley poster, Kaufman asked what it means to be part of a principled and strong community. How is that represented visually?

To create the printings, Kaufman needed to combine linocut block prints as well as specialized letter types.

The barley and wheat posters in Jared Kaufman’s seven species series were the first completed during his two week residency at The Grand. Kaufman’s goal is to create 15 prints each for all seven species, or foods. The seven species of significants in The Torah are wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

Since these prints are connected to Jewish faith and tradition, Kaufman decided to include Hebrew lettering in addition to English text. This made the project more complex. The Cellar Press has a wealth of letterpress equipment, however the different fonts and letters are from the English alphabet.

Kaufman needed to find letter type for the Hebrew alphabet. Kaufman already had some Hebrew type, but he needed to acquire more letter type to make the project feasible. He was able to purchase a new Hebrew print type from Skyline Type Foundry. Kaufman also created some larger Hebrew wood lettering.

Even with access to the full Hebrew alphabet, it still required a lot of problem-solving to combine the letters with English script.

Setting a letterpress required, lettering to be placed backward to print correctly. This means everything must be done backward. This can be a challenge when working in a single language, but Kaufman was using two languages.

Kaufman noted that Hebrew script reads right to left, unlike English writing. Getting the text just right required a lot of trial and error.

“This has been far and away the most ambitious project I’ve ever done,” Kaufman said. “Both in terms of scope and details. There are so many moving parts.”

From the beginning, Kaufman was aware this project would take longer than his residency at The Grand. His goal was to create three or four poster prints during his residency. The rest he would compete at a later date.

Though the project is extensive, Kaufman said he enjoyed the work. It combines his interests and the residency gave him time to do the necessary research.

Though Kaufman’s residency at The Grand Cellar Press has concluded there is a final community outreach portion of the project. Kaufman is also working to design new cocktail menus for Black Frost’s Kentucky Derby celebration, Saturday, May 4.


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