Shield (Circumcision Tool)


In this series of five large paper-cuts Ken Goldman turns to the Magen for inspiration. The Magen or shield is one of the circumcision tools used for centuries by Mohelim (circumcisers) throughout the Jewish world. The purpose of the Magen is to protect the young baby boy undergoing ritual circumcision from being maimed by the Mohel’s knife.
Goldman found the anthropomorphic qualities in the design of these antique Magenim to be intriguing. In many of the shields the artisan accentuated the female forms in the design of the clamps. Goldman examines the clamps and wonders if the phallic and female forms found on the clamps is: happenstance, intentional or an example of “form following function”? This phenomena he found in clamps are from Jewish communities in Eastern Europe and the Mizrach. Was the artisan who designed the clamp trying to create a practical instrument and an amuletic device all in one? Did the design of the clamp reflect a general fear of the power of women?
The artist celebrates the uniqueness of these Magenim and magnifies the unanswered questions by creating large paper works based on design elements he culled from the miniature shields. Choosing traditional Jewish paper cuts as his medium, Goldman plays off the ‘cut’ of circumcision and the cut of the paper cuts. Goldman creates beautiful pieces which raise interesting questions while maintaining a sense of mystery.

Ken Goldman

Shield (Circumcision Tool)

Curator: Dvora Liss

August-November 2015

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