JEW/ISH projects > Eyes Like Black Cherries | 2008

from the Eyes Like Black Cherries series
from the Eyes Like Black Cherries series
Black Cherry Juice on Vellum
24"x24"
2008

Eyes Like Black Cherries/Eygelech vi di Shvartse Karshelech is a series of drawings made using Black Cherry Juice. The title phrase is yiddish, taken from a Klezmer song about a lost love. Her beauty is described by the dark color of her eyes. The visual source material for the drawings is the patterns found in my own iris.
As a dark-haired Ashkenazi Jewish woman living in the United States, my coloring, size, and shape, have always acted as symbols for myself and others. While proud of many of my physical attributes, my deep brown eyes were never necessarily a source of interest to me. One day, a Yiddish-speaking friend of mine told me, “Zoë, whenever I see you, I think of a line that’s often used in Yiddish songs to describe a beautiful woman, ‘eygelech vi di shvartse karshelech’, that she has ‘eyes like black cherries'."
This small piece of cultural history, a fragment of poetry from the language of my ancestors, shifted something in me and sparked an interest in a part of the body I had not yet explored in my drawings. I began to work from my own eyes as both a source of imagery, and as a site of confluence of the seer and the seen; a point of connection to identity and the past, through the context of my place in a society of multiple heritages and standards of beauty.