If Naomi Goldman were to draw a diagram depicting her life, it would have the same elegant, looping forms as her art, interweaving the exotic and the familiar.
She was born in Casablanca, Morocco, in 1968, and the following year her family moved to Monsey, N.Y. As a student and then a professional, she progressed from the aesthetic to the practical and back, studying art, and then nursing, and then more art. She now lives in West Orange.
Interwoven through all her work was — and is — her love of Judaism. As she puts it, “I look for the truth of this world and the meaning and purpose of our existence. For me, that’s about my creator and what relationship I can have with God. And the more I align my life with God’s will, the more everything works out in all areas of my life.”
In visual terms, that orientation finds expression in archetypal Jewish images — like pomegranates, the golden city of Jerusalem, and trees — and lines of Hebrew text. Inspiration might come, Goldman explained, from a prayer or just a phrase from the Torah.
You can see the result — richly colored images reminiscent of embroidery or ceramic designs — at an exhibition of her work at JCC MetroWest’s Cooperman JCC in West Orange until April 30.
A passion for Israel, sparked when she studied in Jerusalem, got her on a detour into nursing, “since it’s a job I knew I could do there.” That plan was short-circuited, however, when she met her husband while she was working at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. They settled on the Lower East Side, lived there for seven years, and had two children, before leaving the city in 2000.
In New Jersey, she continued with her nursing, working in surgery and endoscopy centers. As immersed as she was in work and parenting and religious life, she kept her other plans alive.
“Living in Israel is still a dream of mine, and I hope to move there one day soon,” she told NJJN.
Her love of art has also continued. While living in New York, she studied at the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side, and after moving to this area, she took classes at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey in Summit.
The work in her new show at the JCC is decorative and two-dimensional, done with acrylics. At the center in Summit she also did sculpture and plein air landscapes in oil. She said, “My goals are to continue exploring my creative side and hopefully develop my talents more and more.”
As for the Yiddishkeit so evident in her work, it has deep roots that run through her Jewish education in Monsey, and then studying and living in Jerusalem. “I have a deep spiritual connection and love Hebrew and the Torah very much,” she said. The writing she features in her work reflects that passion.
For example, in a mosaic-style painting of Jerusalem, she includes the words said in prayer each day: “And to Jerusalem, your city, in mercy please return.” In another picture, the Torah itself is her inspiration. Curving around a jewel-bright array of branches and leaves she has written, “It is a tree of life to those that hold onto it.”
In addition to the JCC exhibition, you can see examples of her work on her website, naomijudaicaart.com.