Inspired by Judaica: Glass and Fabric Designs by Michael Gore

December 15th, 2011  |  Published in December 2011, On View  |  3 Comments

Most longtime residents of Cincinnati know that the city has a strong Jewish tradition. But did you know that it’s considered an historic center for Reform Judaism? It is, and has been for more than a century. In 1875 Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise founded the Hebrew Union College which, after merging with the Jewish Institute of Religion in 1950, became one of four campuses of the college institute. The Cincinnati campus is located in the heart of Clifton—the others can be found in New York City, Los Angeles and Jerusalem. In addition to the graduate studies programs offered through the college, Hebrew Union is home to The Skirball Museum—named after Jack and Audrey Skirball who were integral in the founding of the museum and its collections.

The museum itself is a beautiful facility. Their permanent exhibition, titled An Eternal People: The Jewish Experience, takes visitors through seven thematic galleries, including: Immigration, Cincinnati Jewry, Archaeology, Torah, Jewish Festivals and Life Cycles, the Holocaust and Israel. It’s highly educational and worth seeing. Plus, the museum has a number of committed docents who can really enrich the experience with additional information and context. The Skirball also has a temporary exhibition gallery on the fourth floor where they’re currently hosting a show of work by artist Michael Gore.

The exhibit features glass and fabric art by Gore who splits time between his home in Chicago and studios where he works in Venice, Italy. Gore lived in Italy in the 1970s where he collaborated with master artisans of the Venetian tradition, and he became enamored with the beautiful glass and rich fabric designs that were being produced there, and for which they are obviously well known. Gore says that he considers himself a devotee of Mariano Fortuny whose legacy in fabric is still widely recognized worldwide. When asked why he was attracted to glass and fabric in particular, Gore says that he sees the two intersecting beautifully in their relationship to light. In the exhibit, Gore’s glass work is displayed alongside or resting on top of some of his beautifully painted velvet designs. The way light plays off both is particularly striking. The colors are predominantly jewel-toned and he often incorporates gold or silver leaf, or other copper elements that give his glass work a wonderful sheen. This process is called Avventurina, and is attributed to the Venetian glassmaking tradition.

Gore finds inspiration for his work in Judaica. He creates glass dreidels, shofar, yads, mezzuzot and other items that he says aren’t really meant to be used in rituals or ceremonies, but are modeled after those more utilitarian items. A shofar is a horn, traditionally that of a ram, that is blown at the end of services on the last day of Yom Kippur. Gore’s shofar can be blown, and some synagogues that have purchased them do use them in services, but this is rare. His fabrics are more widely used in services as torah covers, but they have also been used in interior design and fashion. Gore is often commissioned to do work for clients who have a particular vision in mind.

Thinking about glassblowing and the more contemporary work you often see from studios in the United States, what strikes me about Gore’s work is that it feels like part of something much larger than itself—which is of course true. Judaism is thousands of years old, and while Gore brings his own artistic interpretation to these works, there’s no doubt they belong to a tradition with an incredibly rich history.

The exhibit of his work at The Skirball Museum will be on view now through February 26, 2012. The museum is open to the public on Sundays from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Docents are available for tours and questions.

The Skirball Museum ● 3101 Clifton Avenue ● 513-487-3053

— Laura Partridge


  1. Mary Ran says:

    December 15th, 2011at 3:41 pm(#)

    The Skirball Museum at Hebrew Union College is a jewell in the crown of the Queen City! In 1985, I went to LA to visit with
    Audrey Skirball in her home to do research on her grand father
    Henry Mosler (1841-1920). She was most gracious and generous in sharing whatever information she could. She got out an old trunk full of drawings, photos, letters, documents of his life as an artist. He lived in Paris for 20 years and had five children, who many times posed as his models. I met with her again when the Skirball Museum opened at HUC. I still have a
    large file that she shared with me. She was a very lovely lady!

  2. Inspired by Judaica: Glass and Fabric Designs by Michael Gore … | Judaica Store says:

    December 15th, 2011at 4:48 pm(#)

    […] here: Inspired by Judaica: Glass and Fabric Designs by Michael Gore … Posted in Judaica Store | Tagged as: creates-glass, finds-inspiration, items, judaic store, […]

  3. Mark Perelmuter says:

    December 16th, 2011at 2:50 pm(#)

    We own several of Michael Gore’s art pieces and can confirm the beauty of his style and creativity as well as the quality of his work. The glass and fabric of Gore’s is the pride of our collection.