Loren Lerner is professor of Art History at Concordia University in Montreal. She teaches an undergraduate course “City of Jerusalem: Ideas and Images” which considers different attachments to Jerusalem through visual perceptions and artistic representations at the religious, social and political levels. Its focus is on the multifaceted narratives, allegiances, and ideas of the city’s history covering ancient times, the Roman and Byzantine periods, the Arab, Crusader and Mamluk periods, and the years under Ottoman, British Mandate, Jordan/Israeli and Israeli rule. Of central importance is the visual imagery of the real and imagined Jerusalem in the art and architecture produced by different communities over thousands of years.
Lerner’s research focuses on the intersections of art and religion. This resulted most recently in her guest editorship of special issues on contemporary art and religion for Religion and the Arts (2013), and the Journal of Canadian Art History/Annales d’histoire de l’art canadien (2012) which also includes two articles by Lerner: “Rejection and Renewal: Art and Religion in Canada (1926-2010),” and “Wassily Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art and the Video Works of Sylvia Safdie, Marisa Portolese, Marielle Nitoslawska, and Sarindar Dhaliwal.” Travel art during the 19th and early 20th centuries relating to Jerusalem is a recent field of exploration with an emphasis on gender, cultural politics, and perspectives of travel that take into account the imaginary transformations of lived experiences.
A pedagogical commitment to innovative student projects has guided Lerner’s teaching. In Spring 2014 an exhibition of the research-creations that developed from the Jerusalem course took place in the VAV Gallery, a student-run space. Students created, as final projects, artworks that reflect a visual response to this city as a site of major world religions.
Note: In this photograph I am standing next to Anna Campbell’s work from the exhibition. Campbell writes: “This work is titled Design for an Ideal Starlight since the pseudo-religious building I designed is one which may architecturally represent all three Abrahamic cultures that lay claim to Jerusalem. I prefer to work in collage, and this method allows me to layer and play with found paper and objects to create something new out of something old, which in many ways is how the landscape of any city is built up over the years and centuries, or in the case of Jerusalem: millennia. In keeping with this theme, there are certain architectural elements of famous buildings in Jerusalem that I aimed specifically to emulate, to at once situate my imaginary building in an imaginary Jerusalem, but also to comment on how these buildings are built upon layers of the past.”