Art for joy, not stress or illness | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Art for joy, not stress or illness


GLENDALE – A Jacqueline Cabessa Redlich painting isn’t just a painting.

It’s a collage of vibrant colors, the blues, greens, reds and golds springing off the canvas. No sadness here. Just happiness, often mixed with the elegance of a French café or walls from the old city of Jerusalem.

But when we say a Jacqueline Cabessa Redlich painting isn’t just a painting, it’s really not because of the colors or the finely dressed French women or for the see-through Jerusalem bricks (more on that later). No, a Redlich painting is more than a painting because its dancing colors represent the artist’s goal: happiness. Each painting is a reach for something good.

Jacqueline Cabessa Redlich with some of her work in her home studio. She enjoys figure painting, mostly women and café scenes from life in Paris; architectural marvels and intricacies, often from Jerusalem, the Greek islands and France; and spiritual paintings grounded in Judaism.

Redlich – who emigrated from France in 1984 and once owned French clothing boutiques at Bayshore and Mayfair malls (“Betty Bejaro-Paris”) ­– teaches art at Bader Hillel Academy, while busily creating art in her Glendale home studio.

The diagnosis

Redlich took four years off from teaching art at Bader Hillel Academy, starting in 2012 when her eighth grade son, Doran, was diagnosed with a malignant tumor. It required immediate intervention and almost a yearlong treatment.

The artist-mother searched for stress relievers. She prayed with a list of things she was thankful for, despite the crisis with Doran. She exercised, walked and kept a daily journal to record emotions, thoughts, or just what was going on that day. She painted and painted more.

“I increased art. I increased spirituality,” she said. “I prayed more and I felt connected to Hashem.”

You might expect a mother under pressure to paint darkness, but a key purpose of Redlich’s art was to bring joy into her life.

“For me, it was some kind of defense mechanism: I’m only going to look on the bright side of everything,” she said. “It’s just the expression of what I want to see in life and not what life is necessarily.”

Teaching at Bader Hillel

Redlich returned to teaching art at Bader Hillel Academy after a four-year break and is now entering her third year back.

“I really like to teach art at Bader Hillel,” she said. “I cannot name one student who does not enjoy art class. We always have something new to work on – a new medium, a new project, a new opportunity.”

Jacqueline Cabessa Redlich, at her home studio in Glendale, holding one of her paintings of a scene with an elegant woman.

She has her students enter various art contests sponsored by Jewish organizations. “I like to regularly showcase the students’ artwork in the hallways. It gives me pleasure to see them take pride and ownership in their work,” she said.

“Also, the world of art is so vast. It’s liberating at times, very tactile at other times, joyous, pleasant, colorful, stimulating, humorous …the list of adjectives is endless. And so are the benefits. Art is absolutely everywhere. From the most beautiful sunset to the most ordinary object in our everyday life. This is the kind of experience and appreciation I like to share with my students.”

About her art

Redlich uses little black in her work, usually only as an accent. She likes figure drawing, architecture, including its sinuous aspects, and perspective.

She likes to explore spiritual themes, including scenes from Jerusalem and, in particular, the Western Wall. In 2014, she went to Israel, “as a thank you for Hashem, for making my son better.” She was there during Operation Protective Edge, when Israel invaded Gaza after Hamas killed three teenagers, because “it is more meaningful to go to Israel and support Israel during war than during peace.”

She likes to paint the Western Wall and other Jerusalem structures with space between stones. For her, no mortar between stones suggests that “prayers and messages will be conveyed without barrier.”

Jacqueline Cabessa Redlich likes to paint scenes with spaces between stones, symbolizing prayers conveyed without barriers. Photos by Rob Golub.

Her work will at times display Jewish symbols or ideas, but her work is not exclusively Jewish.

“I do a lot of café scenes where women just reflect,” she said. Growing up in France, she was “surrounded by cafes,” and she remembers fondly a woman of elegance sitting at a café and reading a book, perhaps wearing one of the large-brimmed capeline hats that Redlich likes to paint

Redlich’s passion for art started at age 4, and she did take classes at a respected French art school, École des Beaux-Arts, but she’s truly self-taught, she said.

Doran, by the way, is now doing nicely, Redlich said.

“Now he’s healthy,” Redlich said. “He’s back on track.”

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Bader Hillel teacher to appear

Bader Hillel Academy art teacher Jacqueline Cabessa Redlich will be at the Third Ward Art Festival. The festival is held Sept. 8-9, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

More info