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Get Your Sheitel On Wearing Wigs as an Act of Public Modesty

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t’s happened. Jewish women freaking out ... scared senseless at the thought of compulsory head covering just because they’re getting married to an Orthodox man; or they’re already married but becoming more observant and thus are obligated suddenly to don uncomfortable headgear, never to show their lovely silken locks in public again. Who wouldn’t be wigged out by such a hair-raising religious edict? Imagine, women mortified by the dubious options confronting their future ... sheitel (wig) or tichel (scarf)? snood (hair net) or pre-tied (scarf with bow)? Band fall (long hair fastened by a head band) or hat fall (long hair fastened by a hat)? Mitpachat (bandanna) or beret? Faced with such seemingly unreasonable and unpalatable decisions, what’s a nice Jewish girl to do – when all she did was say yes to the man she loves? Jewish women who observe this halacha (Jewish law) likely will find the above to be a harsh characterization of a beautiful tradition they not only embrace, but willingly give themselves to in the name of holy matrimony. To the rest, it’s a primitive constraint men designed to inhibit a woman’s freedom in the world. After all, it’s been a long way, Baby, and we haven’t come this far to end up wearing the equivalent of a babushka to please a man. But before we step into the ring to slug this one out, two such disparate views deserve reconciliation. No need to be wigged out over wigs. It begins with the concept of tznius (tznee-US), Hebrew for modesty, privacy and humility as defined in the Talmud (the Book of Jewish Law given to Moses at Mount Sinai). Tznius sees its greatest influence in Orthodox Judaism, and refers to

modesty and discretion in one’s dress and demeanor. The guiding principle of tznius is that a Jew should not dress in a way that attracts attention. From here we segue to those controversial head coverings, in particular the sheitel (SHAY-tuhl), Yiddish for wig, and most probably derived from the German word scheitel (SHY-tuhl), meaning skull. The Talmud states that it is a biblical requirement for married Jewish women to cover their hair as a part of their requirement to be tznius. Yona Lazarus is a Chabad Rebbetzin, who belongs to Chabad of Summerlin and teaches at The Florence Melton Adult Mini School at the Las Vegas JCC. She explained that the law to cover one’s hair is Rabbinic and not explicitly stated in the Torah. A passage regarding the incident of the sotah (adulterer) tells us that her head is to be uncovered in shame. From this our Sages inferred that married Jewish women normally covered their hair. “Herein lies the basic difference between Orthodoxy and the other denominations. Orthodoxy follows G-d’s literal oral and written words to interpret and apply the commandments. The other denominations, to varying degrees, alter and adapt the laws to accommodate changing circumstances over the millennium,” Lazarus said. Before the skeptics among you get even more riled up, renowned Jewish educator and speaker Rebbetzin Feige Twersky of Milwaukee beautifully relates that when a married woman is tznius, her speech, dress and manner convey to her and others that “I need to be attractive but not attracting.” “Observant women who are tuned in to this mitzvah (commandment) find that it serves as a powerful medium to raise their

awareness to be inner directed rather than externally influenced,” she said. “When she leaves the confines of her home for matrimony, her hair, her crowning beauty, is kept private to show that this is for her husband’s eyes only.” Lazarus added that a “woman’s hair is a sensual part of her nakedness that belongs to her husband alone.” By covering her hair, the married woman makes the statement, “I am not available. You can see me but I am not open to you. My hair, the most visible part of me, is not for your eyes.” Wow! How romantic is that? Let’s be honest, regardless of whether one wants to partake in this act of privacy and exclusivity, surely the conversation has evolved from the earlier perception of constraints to a woman’s freedom. The number one question that Lazarus gets regarding her sheitel implies a hypocrisy. If the intention is to ward off the advances from other men, why do women wear sheitels that often look real and better than their own hair? “From the Jewish perspective, modesty has nothing to do with being unattractive. The sheitel is not intended to make a married woman look ugly. Beauty is a divine gift. Jewish tradition encourages modesty, not to detract from a woman’s beauty but to save it for where it belongs – within the marriage,” Lazarus said. Sheitels are becoming increasingly popular as the Orthodox movement grows and more women are available for their husband’s eyes only. In short, the sheitel business is booming. Chani Wuensch is a sheitel macher, or wig expert, with showrooms in Los Angeles and Burbank, where the market for sheitels is huge. Wuensch is skilled in the craft of fitting, customizing, cutting, MAY 2012 DAVID

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Sheitels on Display

styling, cleaning and reviving sheitels. She spent six months training with a wig company that caters to the Orthodox Jewish www.uncoverdiscovercoaching.com market. Her sheitels are certified kosher, meaning they’re made of real, untreated uncover05_2012.indd 1 4/16/12 4:18 PM hair from companies that are considered the gold standard by wearers. “And we don’t use hair from countries where the hair was taken in an idolatrous ceremony, like in India’s Hindu temples.” She also offers private fitting rooms so women will be comfortable changing and trying on hairstyles in tznius. Wuensch’s sheitels range from $1,300 to nearly $3,000. There are everyday sheitels, fancy party sheitels, even workout sheitels (think ponytail). For a new sheitel, clients seek Wuensch out just before marriage and “We go the extra mile often before major Jewish holidays. “I also for a better cleaning” cater to clients from around the country,” Wuensch said. “Cost is determined by tion n e length, and whether the hair is machineM nd FREE WINDOWS ad a .00 sewn in wefts directly onto a cap, or handthis 20 ve $ CARPET CLEANING recei count sewn, hair by hair, onto a double cap. With dis careful upkeep, a sheitel will last three to AFFORDABLE PRICES five years.” Clients who can afford it own three or more. For those who can’t, the Chassidic comCALL FOR A FREE ESTIMATES munity collects and sells used sheitels. Lice and germs are not a problem. The sheitels are “washed and blown dry to kill any bug, LIC# M01-09616-4-14154 plus lice can’t live on a wig. They need a live scalp to survive,” said Elana Kornfeld, who helps her sister in the business. In Israel, a major sheitel chain called Galit for a FREE one hour consultation!

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Italia has added Wig Leasing to its retail business. “Instead of spending a fortune upfront, a woman can pick up a sheitel through our leasing method and enjoy different designs and full service for a monthly fee of 270 shekels or about $75,” said marketing manager Iris Elkayam. “After a while, she may decide to buy that particular wig or use the same method on a different one.” With sheitels on the rise in Orthodox communities everywhere, blogging advice has cropped up all over the Internet: Smartcookie to Skyscraper: Whatever you are willing to spend is not what’s important. Make sure your husband to be likes whatever style you will buy because he is likely paying for it, and even if he isn’t, he will have to look at you wearing it every day so make sure he likes it. Lovin’ Felling to Alliegirl: I’m having sheitel style anxiety. I feel a crushing anxiety that I shouldn’t mess up the coiffure, that it should stay PERFECT. And I feel this every time I get my sheitel done. It’s aggravating. Help! Sweetdreams to Powerplay: I’m so lovin my new sheitel! I don’t have to try hard to look nice. I can just put one on and BAM! I don’t have to use my hairdryer and flat iron anymore except to groom my pooch! Instant polish and coif. I cannot overstate how awesome that is!!!!! — Lynn Wexler-Margolies

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Distinct Visions

Four Vegas Women Artists Make their Mark Downtown

By Lynn Wexler-Margolies Photographs by Tonya Harvey

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Arts opening in the downtown sector, my skepticism as to whether there is a viable art scene in Las Vegas might have discouraged me from the “backyard” search. Art has had a tough go in the neon basin. The Art Museum came and went, as did the Guggenheim. Even Richard Barnaby, former CFO of the Metro Arts Council of Southern Nevada, chuckled softly when I told him I was looking for the Vegas Art scene and

could he help me find it. Indeed, he did. It’s called the 18b District, the hub of the Las Vegas Arts scene. The b stands for the 18 blocks that comprise the original downtown Arts scene, or Arts industry as Joan Lolmaugh, president of the MAC, refers to it “because of the activity and economy it generates.” It’s immediately south of the downtown area and a short walk from Fremont Street. Bounded

Steven Wilson

he Cutting Edge Arts Culture believes art can change the world. Las Vegas artist Kristine McCallister believes women in the arts are already changing the world, and we need look no farther than our own backyard for the visionaries and luminaries challenging and influencing society’s prevailing codes of belief. Truth to tell, if it weren’t for the recent Smith Center for the Performing

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Steven Wilson

“Orange” 48” x 48” oil on board by Kristine McAllister

by Commerce Street, Hoover Avenue, Fourth Street, Las Vegas Boulevard (at Charleston) and Colorado Avenue, the area has outgrown its original boundaries, boasting an expanse of eclectic and funky new galleries, one-of-a-kind antique shops and boutiques, artists studios, intimate and artsy cafes – a few of which offer cabaret space – diverse living accommodations, and a major furniture mart. This slowemerging cultural explosion over the past three decades has yielded a surprisingly sophisticated metro lifestyle in the neighborhood. Despite this impressive evolution, The Las Vegas Arts District has enjoyed little brand awareness among locals and visitors, including this writer, until now. I recently strolled the quiet streets of 18b one sunny afternoon, walking in and out of galleries showing contemporary exigent and thought-provoking paintings and sculptures by perhaps some of the best artists in America today. I also saw mediocre art, and art that triggers the soul and the psyche. I was spiritually invigorated to discover, in 48

my own community, a world of relevance, vitality and inventiveness so many have overlooked. If I’ve piqued your interest, but you still find the downtown area too formidable to approach, First Fridays will help you to break the ice and experience a comfortable first encounter with the arts scene. Founded in 2002 by antique storeowner Cindy Funkhouser, attorney and art gallery owner Naomi Arin, and the late entrepreneur Julie Brewer, First Fridays is an outdoor art walk street festival the District convenes, aptly enough, on the first Friday of each month. It’s since become one of the premier arts events in Las Vegas. Hosted by more than 80 local businesses and galleries (from 6 p.m. to midnight), it attracts up to 18,000 visitors to shop, eat, drink and mingle amid street performers and fine arts for sale. A $2 entry fee is collected at the gated entrances along Casino Center and Charleston boulevards, Casino Center and California Street, Colorado Avenue and Main Street, and Colorado Avenue and

Third Street. It’s a cultural panacea, and the people-watching is priceless. Once you’ve accomplished that adventure, you’ll likely return for a casual dinner at the intimate and artsy Bar ‘n Bistro, popping in a gallery that might remain open in The Arts Factory next door. Next you’ll attend an event at the Contemporary Arts Collection. Soon you’ll bring visiting friends and family for a day’s stroll, shop and lunch along the District streets. Now it’s funky to be sure, and still a work in progress, but try it and keep an open mind. I’ll bet you’ll write and thank me for the introduction. As the surrounding 18b neighborhood continues to re-gentrify, the city of Las Vegas continues its support through the Arts District Neighborhood Association, which supervises neighborhood design standards; and the Arts District Task Force, which oversees growth issues and protects against real estate investment gouging. The ADNA, partnered with AIGA, The Professional Association for Design, is working on marketing and promoting the District through artist-generated signifiers for motorists and pedestrians. They also have plans to incorporate public art works in the Monorail Arts District Station once it resumes building. Through a live/work ordinance, the city “encourages” the artists to work and live downtown. The city also has developed a highway enhancement project to create two landmark gateways into the neighborhood. Barnaby says he left MAC to work on an Arts Calendar (availability, early 2013), which will unite the arts community with Las Vegas. “An aware and informed patron is likely to participate, and that’s our goal,” he adds. The Calendar is intended primarily, however, for media outlets, “which in turn they can offer to their customer. We’ll also have a website that individuals can access. But the intent is to get the media involved in spreading the word.” The Las Vegas Arts scene, emerging from beneath the shadow of the encompassing Strip, is becoming an epicenter that radiates community pride through identity, and is generating a pulse of diversity, vision and the spirit of the artists. Government agencies, not-for-profit arts associations, gallery owners and artists all are working to foster a sustainable scene … without the smirks. In honor of May, the month that justly celebrates mothers and women, I spent time with four notable women at the center

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of the Las Vegas arts scene. By virtue of their courage and creative spirits, they reminded me that a society without art is devoid of a heart, soul and capacity to push past limits, to better us all. “Women are the stronger gender. The world of aggression and hardship will change when men will learn from women.” Kristine McAllister “I’ve been inspired by so many great women … Georgia O’Keefe, Alice Neel,” says artist Kristine McCallister, 61. “I greatly respect all successful women in the arts, especially if they’re mothers. Women have a different experience in life than men. We are the givers. I have three children. Creating and accomplishing can be very difficult … especially so for a mother.” McCallister has been painting for 30 years, exhibiting since 1984, and her work is in private collections in the U.S. and around the world. By her voice – soft, ethereal, child-like – you would expect someone in her 20s. Makes sense. Her current collection, Coming of Age (on exhibit at The Brett Wesley Gallery at Charleston and Casino Center boulevards), explores the child in us all. She uses lines, color and texture to remind us of fleeting childhood innocence in today’s world. “Often, through circumstances beyond our control, innocence becomes broken and short-lived,” she says. She learned about the importance of innocence years into an established career. “I was living in Taos, New Mexico, painting cows, when an opportunity arose for me to get a visual arts degree from the university there. I was excited but worried this might hurt my career or reputation.” She also worried that she knew too much, and then realized she would have to become “innocent” again. “Letting in the new allows us to be reborn.” McCallister believes it is “vital that women are given the breadth to speak through the fine arts, moving out from under the more domestic applied arts” of needlepoint pillows and painted ceramics. “Women are the stronger gender,” she believes. “The world of aggression and hardship will change when men will learn from women. We must teach men how to treat us … change the way they see us … particularly through images. It’s already beginning to happen.” She likens Las Vegas to Madonna, “always reinventing itself,” and sees it as a mecca for visionaries.

Mary Warner

“When I first came here I would ride the bus up and down the Strip absorbing shapes, colors, skylines! Just look at the art in the signage, the shows, the architecture! … “In Las Vegas, you can create anything!” “Women are the backbone of the arts scene in Las Vegas.” Mary Warner Mary Warner, 63, came to Las Vegas in 1989 as a visiting artist in residence at UNLV. She has lived, worked and painted in downtown Las Vegas ever since. Originally from Northern California, and recently retired as an art professor at UNLV, she remains irrepressibly attracted to the glamour-versus-cowboy theme Las Vegas exudes.

As a visual artist for 50 years, she has accumulated an impressive national exhibition and awards history, including fellowships from the Mid-America Arts Alliance and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Nevada Arts Council’s 2011 Governor’s Arts Award for Excellence in the Arts. She lives in a mid-century, sun-bleached, aquamarine-painted home (in the upand-coming Winchester neighborhood) that doubles as her studio. She’s one of many artists who live in the area once considered undesirable. “I think artists moved here because of the architecture and the potential. A lot of artists seek out domestic restoration.” Painting flowers has become her trademark. Van Gogh painted the MAY 2012 DAVID

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Jennifer Henry

sunflower, O’Keefe the red poppy, Renoir the rose. Warner prefers zinnias. She paints vibrant, whimsical blossoms in monochromatic color, with articulated petals that burst like fireworks or curl with sensuality. “Painting flowers for me is abstract. I wanted to move away from the emotional or political, and into visual expression not rooted in narrative.” Her Heavy Petals exhibition recently ended at the Trifecta Gallery in the Arts Factory on Charleston at Casino Boulevard. As one of the founders 22 years ago of the Contemporary Arts Center, she believes “women are the backbone of the arts scene in Las Vegas.” It was women primarily who started the CAC, she says, and who have kept the Las Vegas art scene relevant 50

and alive through various ventures. “Until recently there hasn’t been much of an infrastructure here to stop them, which has served as a positive,” Warner says. Despite her love of zinnias, her current exhibition (with two other Las Vegas artists, through June 1) at the Winchester Cultural Center is called Dream House. Its focus is the house and home and it challenges one’s investment in the American Dream. She is unsure what will come next for her as an artist, but “If you take care of the present, opportunities will always present themselves in the future.” “I learned that you have all the tools you need to create and to solve. You just have to be able to identify them.”

Jennifer Henry Before I introduce you to artist Jennifer Henry, 31, let me introduce you to her fictional friend … a nymph of a character … a kewpie doll with grit … a citizen of the universe. She is Lola, and, yes, she’s a showgirl, among dozens of other incarnations. Jennifer explains: However small in stature, Lola likes to explore the universe’s grander schemes. She’s an avid activist, successfully leaving her mark from ANWAR to Africa. As a failed financial adviser she showed perseverance. As a steam train conductor she showed perseverance. As a creative performer she showed perseverance. As a combatant she showed perseverance. It was only during her campaign for President of the Universe that she faltered under the weight of unsubstantiated rumors suggesting she had once (many, many years ago) sold herself on eBay, but it all turned out all right in the end. Lola has learned much in her recent travels and although she still wrestles with many questions and insecurities, she feels confident that it will all turn out all right in the end. And Lola is just the warm up. Jennifer herself exudes ingenuity, energy and possibility. She looks a bit like Lola … a statuesque kewpie doll herself. In her brief years in the arts, she’s accomplished more lateral creativity than most could in decades. Lola resulted from a Google search. Henry happened upon a glitterencrusted kewpie doll on eBay that evolved into an entire fine arts collage series of humorous and thoughtful juxtapositions of Lola contemplating infinity, falling in love, stardom, where babies come from, winning, losing and facing her fears. Lola’s success has enabled Henry to contribute Lola works to a variety of charity arts events, including the First Friday Annual Fundraiser and Opportunity Village. It seems whatever Henry touches turns to gold … well, on second thought, maybe cellophane … Once again it started by accident. In November 2009, Henry and a friend were collaborating on a Christmas-themed photo shoot that required the model to pose in gold gift-wrap. Unable to find the gold paper, and running behind schedule, Henry settled on gold-tinted cellophane, quickly pleating and taping her subject into the design minutes before the shoot. Lo and behold she loved the look and created another for a friend to wear to a New Year’s Eve party. It was a hit! Long story short, she is now the queen of outrageous crinkle ‘n crunch creations,

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designing extravagant outfits for customers in Vegas and around the country, who are attending everything from costume parties to charity events to Lady Gaga concerts. And if she weren’t preoccupied enough with the demands of Lola and her cellophane art, Henry owns a vintage clothing store called Flockflockflock. It’s inside Emergency Arts on Fremont Street, a retail creative co-op for working artists. It’s a lot for one plate. “I love to create, invent … problem solve,” Henry says. “There are always obstacles, even walls you hit. But I learned, from my husband, who is also in the arts, that you have all the tools you need to create and solve. You just have to be able to identify them.” “Women in the arts typically bring a deeper, richer dialogue to their work than men.” Marty Walsh Marty is the quintessential woman in the arts. Born in Detroit, she studied at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and majored in painting, with a minor in sculpture. But life’s stage has been her best education. The road to becoming an artist and gallery owner in Las Vegas has been paved with food, entrepreneurial opportunity, marriage, travel, life abroad, gardening and nostalgia. After her schooling, Marty went to work as an apprentice pastry chef. She learned to “taste” and “hear” color in what would be her prime training ground for a long art career. “Because all of my senses were at work, it made me a better painter.” She moved to Martha’s Vineyard with a friend, opened a deli and six years later married Pete. They bought a VW bus, drove 20,000 miles along America’s side roads and live in a tree house in Georgia and managed a youth hostel. Pete was homesick so they moved to his native Ireland. They bought property outside Dublin, built a house, and Marty cultivated a 150-by-5-foot garden along a river. She also cultivated a keen sense of color and texture. In 1999, after nine years in Ireland, they moved to Las Vegas for dry weather and a booming economy. “I’ve been a Las Vegas downtowner ever since … living, working, shopping and playing in this fabulous community!” Marty took a job as a food stylist, had a show at the Small Works Gallery, and got involved with the Contemporary Arts Center before opening the Trifecta Gallery in 2004 in the Arts Factory. She produces almost 24 shows a year. The

Marty Walsh

idea was to show her own works. But an impromptu exhibition featuring her friends persuaded her to become a full time curator, showcasing skilled figurative painters from Las Vegas and across the country. Marty is best known for her extensive still life collections of diverse food paintings, and portraits of vintage appliances, each of which represents a member of her family. “All of my paintings have a biographical content to them. They pay homage to my memories and all things familiar. If there’s no familiarity with the subject, then I can’t paint it.” The city recently honored her for Giving Women in the Arts a Chance. “I don’t know why women have to fight for their notoriety. Women in the arts

typically bring a deeper, richer dialogue to their work than men. That’s not to discount the men.” She says it’s the women, though, who are overseeing the diversification of Vegas art venues, from cutting-edge galleries to government spaces to bedrock cultural institutions. And in a city where it sometimes seems the art scene could disappear at any moment, Marty says women “offer the best chance of holding it all together.” They say art imitates life. Women historically embrace, nurture and provide the glue that keeps it all together. Marty may have never had any children of her own, but she has been a “mother” to her art, and to the artists she promotes and the arts community she loves and believes in. She holds it together, day-byday, always for the greater good. MAY 2012 DAVID

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Lynn Wexler - David Magazine May 2012 Issue  

Lynn Wexler's article on David magazine, May 2012 issue