We at Word Up Community Bookshop are ecstatic to present a new exhibition by Yael Ben-Zion, a thoughtful and talented photographer from our neighborhood whose work first caught our eye with her monograph 5683 miles away, which we didn’t get our hands on till we had nearly closed down our original Word Up location. We kept that book close till we could open our bookshop once again, and throughout those long months that we worked toward reopening, Yael had been finishing up another project, on intermarried couples in our community. A year or two ago, we would never have imagined just how much significance the topic of intermarriage would carry for many members of the Word Up volunteer staff. But 2014! Whoa, what a year! It turns out that it is just the right time for us to be welcoming Yael Ben-Zion and her work into the space.
Photographs by Yael Ben-Zion
Curated by Gabriel de Guzman
Exhibition On View: March 9 – April 9, 2014
Sunday, March 9, 3–5 PM
Opening Reception and Book Signing with the Artist
Sunday, March 30, 5:30pm
Discussion with Yael Ben-Zion and Lise Funderburg,
author of Black, White, Other: Biracial Americans Talk About Race and Identity,
Moderated by Gabriel de Guzman
Following her award winning monograph 5683 miles away (Kehrer, 2010) in which Yael Ben-Zion considered the meaning of “normal life” in her homeland of Israel, Ben-Zion now fixes her camera on another personal, yet politically charged theme: intermarriage. Her second monograph with Kehrer, Intermarried, which publishes nationally this spring following a winter unveiling in New York, explores a complex issue with insight and sensitivity. The book includes a foreword by Amy Chua, an essay by Maurice Berger, and an afterword by Yael Ben-Zion.
Ben-Zion initiated Intermarried in 2009 by contacting an online parenting group in Washington Heights, the Manhattan neighborhood where she resides with her husband and twin boys. She invited couples that define themselves as “mixed” to participate, leaving the definition of intermarriage open to the interpretation of the respondents. Her own marriage “mixed,” she was interested in the many challenges faced by couples that choose to share their lives regardless of their different origins, ethnicities, races or religions.
The families presented in this book gave Ben-Zion access to their homes to photograph themselves, their children, and the spaces they live in. These images are not straightforward portraiture or documentation, but rather intimate moments and depictions, which allude to the personal experiences of Ben-Zion’s subjects within a wider social and political context. Through layered images and revealing texts culled from a questionnaire she asked her subjects to fill out, Ben-Zion constructs a subtle, reality based narrative in which she explores and interprets the complex, multifaceted issues posed by intermarriage.
It is Ben-Zion’s hope that her new book will create a “platform for thinking and talking about issues that are very personal but have vast social and political implications.” In light of the current public discourse surrounding interracial and interfaith marriage, the publication of this book is very timely.
The Intermarried exhibition debuted at La Galeria at Boricua College in Washington Heights in January 2014. The Bronx Art Exchange wrote this about the show: “. . . The lines are blurring all around us with intermarriage. It is doing the great service of shattering stereotypes and is, part in parcel, the very dream that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of and yearned for all Americans to reach . . . Ben-Zion’s work is powerful because it captures the essence of what is happening in our country today and the very nature of how identities in the future will be dramatically different than anything we know today.”