For A Human Is a Tree of The Field
The Vilna Shul, 18 Phillips St. Boston, MA 02114
About the Exhibition
This Sukkah installation was commissioned by the Vilna Shul in the fall of 2022. A Sukkah is a temporary structure in which Jews traditionally dwell during the week-long celebration of Sukkot. According to rabbinic tradition, these structures represent the huts in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years wandering in the desert after escaping from slavery in Egypt. By referencing this period of nomadic freedom, the Sukkah illustrates two aspects of Jewish historical experience: it is a symbol of impermanence and insecurity and a symbol of dynamic movement and progress as we prepare for the seasonal change from summer to winter.
This Sukkah captures this spirit of movement and progress by drawing from my immigration experiences, first as a child moving from South Africa to Israel and later as an adult moving from Israel to the US. The piece reflects on the meaning and impermanence of home as well as on the notion of refuge and what it means to welcome the stranger. Further, it is a meditation on what I see as my responsibility as a Jewish artist to act in a way that honors my own humanity and that of others.
This message is reflected both in the roof of the structure and in the paintings on its walls. The roof is made of tree branches twisted and tied together following the biblical commandment to allow for both the sun and the stars to remain visible. This commandment, and Tabb’s adherence to it, is rooted in the idea that being able to see the stars will help inspire us to imagine our own great potential. Tabb elaborates on the potential she sees contained in each person on the walls of the Sukkah, which are adorned with the seven species of the land of Israel: fig, pomegranate, olive, date, barley, wheat, and grapes. Kabbalist authors assigned each of these species a correlating human attribute. Tabb reminds us that we all contain each of these attributes, and our actions reflect the parts of ourselves that we allow to grow and flourish. As a tree in the metaphoric field, we can take many forms. Tabb’s Sukkah asks us each to grow reflect deeply and grow thoughtfully with intention.
Events + Press
Jewish Boston: "The Vilna Shul Celebrates Sukkot With a Custom Sukkah, Special Exhibition"
"Every aspect of Tabb’s construction of the Vilna’s sukkah encapsulates her commitment to showcasing Jewish values and social justice issues in her work. She calls the sukkah “For a Human is a Tree of the Field,” a quote from Deuteronomy 20:19."
JCRC: "Under the sukkah with civic leaders"
"Caron Tabb, the accomplished visual artist who designed this sukkah installation, explained the symbols and meanings of the sukkah and her interpretation of it. Then Dalit Ballen Horn, executive director of the Vilna, gave a tour of the sanctuary and the restoration work – which is supported, in part, by the city’s community preservation fund."
How Art Connects Us to Place, Self and History: Boston's Museum Of Fine Arts Director Matthew Teitelbaum In Conversation With Visual Artist Caron Tabb
The Sukkah is one of the greatest pieces of public art in Jewish tradition. Join us for a private tour of our inaugural sukkah installation followed by a gallery talk. Together we will explore how Jewish art has played a central role in identity formation throughout Jewish history.