Liora Ostroff: Curator-in-Residence
Liora Ostroff (she/her) is a Baltimore-based painter whose work explores themes such as queerness, Jewishness, violence, and the idiosyncrasies of life in Baltimore. Her community at Hinenu: The Baltimore Justice Shtiebl nourishes her art practice and has inspired her to explore Jewish notions of justice and art via collaborative writing and performance. She graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2016 with a BFA in painting.
As the Curator-in-Residence at JMM, over the next several months Liora will develop community-responsive programming and curate artistic responses that address safety, security, and exclusion in Jewish communities.
Why were you interested in becoming JMM’s Curator-in-Residence?
As an artist, I am excited to connect themes that I explore in my personal and collaborative projects with broader cultural discourse and connect artists across disciplines. I see this as an opportunity to inspire and platform new voices who will push forward complex pictures of Jewish identity, and provoke thoughtful reflection in the greater Jewish community.
Creative Jewish thinkers and artists are challenging and reanimating our traditions and practices, but the audiences they draw are limited and self-selecting. The museum can reach an expanded audience, and has the space and resources to experiment with form and content. This is a rare opportunity to hold experimental programming that can reach a broad audience.
Tell us about the project?
This project will highlight the internal conflict over safety and exclusion within Jewish communities and institutions, including personal reflections on queer life and Judaism, racial justice in Jewish spaces, and dreams for inclusion and solidarity in Jewish institutions. This will be a multifaceted and experimental project, framed by open-ended questions, and aimed at bringing various communities together for critical conversations and creative visioning.
Why do you think this project is important?
I hope this project will offer communities a framework for a deeper and more meaningful conversation. I believe this is only possible if the whole Jewish community is brought into conversation together. Otherwise, our perspectives are terribly limited. The question, “When does what makes one person feel safe make another person feel unsafe?” is crucial to expanding our collective approach to safety and inclusion.
How did you get involved/interested in these conversations?
My lived experience with the Jewish community and as a resident of Baltimore is bound up these questions.
Growing up, I could not imagine a community where my whole identity would be safe and included, or celebrated and honored. One of the questions my project is centered on is, “How do excluded voices make space for themselves?” I have found, in my chosen community at Hinenu, that it is possible, and that it requires dreaming.
The longer I’ve spent in Baltimore the more I’ve witnessed firsthand the effects of state violence on my neighborhoods and on other marginalized identities. The questions I hope to invite Jewish communities to consider are no different from the questions all communities should investigate. When the state responded to the 2015 uprisings after the death of Freddie Gray with militarized interventions, curfews, and indiscriminate arrests, I wondered who was being placated; who felt more safe, and from what?
What do you hope people will take away from the project?
I hope that everyone who participates in the discussion series or visits the exhibit feels like an active participant in this project: equipped to carry these conversations outward and into their own communities, responsible for reframing the conversation within their own community and honoring diverse perspectives.
Do you have questions for Liora about her residency at JMM? You can reach out to her at: email@example.com