"It's so much fun to see what they come up with," said associate curator Dara Solomon of the ambitious, unusual show, which runs through June 2. "It's such a wide range of objects - some functional, some nonfunctional. It's a really fun exhibition."
For the past 25 years, the museum has invited diverse groups of artists to creatively explore and re-interpret a Judaic object, holiday or concept.
Contemporary ceramic artist Richard Shaw (Fairfax) is a respected and collected artist. His only connection with Passover was a seder he once attended with a high school friend, but he had been working on a series of pieces dealing with migration and cultures, so it fit right in with the exhibit.
His glazed porcelain blue-and-whiteware plate (see picture detail above left) features transfer decals, boats fashioned from torn pieces of paper and stamps of ships, heading in the same direction.
"This plate is about movement, travel and history - one culture traveling to another," he said. "It's about migration."
Sculptor Carl Dern (Fairfax) isn't Jewish and wasn't really familiar with the seder plate or Passover, but he's happy to have been asked to join in. One of the few metal artists in the show, he created a silverplated bronze piece with a hot wax finish.
"I'm not Jewish and I was very unfamiliar with seder plates in the beginning," Hawthorne said. "But I'm Asian and the idea of food and family resonates with me.
"I thought using common every day objects would make this not so precious, but without taking away from the importance of the occasion," she explains. "It lends a familiarity. It makes art more accessible, more familiar, more comfortable. I literally raided my daughter's play food for this."
"New Works/Old Story: 80 Artists at the Passover Table" will continue through June 2, at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.
A cantilevered steel base holds cup-shaped seder plates with the ceremonial items - lettuce, shank bone, charoset, bitter herb, parsley, egg - stamped on them. Overlooking the plates is the witness of the title, an empty, slightly imbalanced chair, one of Dern's signature images.