‘Paper Golems’ turn comics into pandemic art journal

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A Castaic resident who has spent his last two years during the pandemic working on art displays his work at an art gallery at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik has created a new art exhibit called “Paper Golems: A unlimited diary” of 72 paper-cut golems from old comic books. Anthropomorphic creatures are historic in Jewish culture as protectors of their people.

The Brynjegard-Bialik exhibit includes 72 golems with sixty one-foot artworks. The exhibit opened January 27, with an opening reception scheduled for March 1 at the Dotort Center for Creativity in the Arts at UCLA Hillel.

The idea for the new golem series came to Brynjegard-Bialik out of the uncertainty created by the pandemic. He wanted to regain control of his life and started creating his artwork as a way to process what was happening.

The vintage comics are part of Brynjegard-Bialik’s private childhood collection, which he uses to cut out and create the golems. Incorporated elements include depictions of doctors, nurses, lawyers, scientists, speech bubbles discussing the pandemic, and images of Wonder Woman.

Originally, Brynjegard-Bialik wanted to be a graphic designer and attended UCLA. However, he spent a year in Israel while his wife completed rabbinical school. As a result, he needed something besides doing computer graphics.

Courtesy/The Signal

“I thought it might be fun to try paper cutting, rather than just graphic design, like I was doing on the computer,” Brynjegard-Bialik said. “So I bought a knife, a cutting mat and started cutting paper.”

He describes the “apple falling from the tree” moment when he had comics on the table where he was cutting paper and decided to combine the two passions in one project. Over the past 15 years he has developed his art, culminating in his current exhibition.

The purpose of Brynjegard-Bialik is to tell the Judeo stories and the stories of civilization; many works incorporated Jewish folklore and stories passed down orally from generation to generation.

“My art is me trying to figure out what these stories mean to me and being part of that conversation across generations,” Brynjegard-Bialik said. “I’m not trying to answer questions and I’m not trying to say that’s how we tell the story; I’m just trying to have my say in a conversation.

Every element of his art is meticulously curated; even the story backgrounds of the superhero characters he uses in his work play an important role in expressing a story being told. The biblical story of the feud between Jacob and Esau ties into the comics, and he used images of Loki and Thor as examples of a modern retelling of ancient history.

“Spider-Man explains that with great power there must also come great responsibility, and that’s a lesson that seems to be taken straight from the Bible,” Brynjegard-Bialik said. “He tells us how to live and how to be a good person.”

The pieces are meant to create discussion about the stories and what they mean. Brynjegard-Bialik hopes viewers can find inspiration to understand themselves and the world around them.

He continued to participate in gallery exhibitions and appreciated the different people who addressed ideas of feminism and equality. Themed shows allow conversations to grow, according to Brynjegard-Bialik.

“A lot of artists use comics to tell their stories like Lichtenstein, Warhol,” Brynjegard-Bialik said. “Even people like Picasso and Brock used newspapers and magazines in their collage work as a medium to tell new stories.”

The nearly two years of confinement situations allowed Brynjegard-Bialik to share what he went through during a tumultuous time. He describes the works as a journal of his experience. Brynjegard-Bialik said his hope is that his 72 golems will remind people of what they’ve been through over the past two years and create discussion about a shared experience.

Saying goodbye to his childhood comics became difficult for Brynjegard-Bialik, but he said it added a deeper connection to his work. He cut some famous issues from the Batman comics during the Frank Miller era, but says he has limitations.

“I have a Thor comic signed by Jack Kirby that will probably never go under the knife, just because it has sentimental value,” Brynjegard-Bialik said.

You can find more information about Brynjegard-Bialik’s work at www.nicejewishartist.com/papergolemsinfo.

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