Singing a World of Words

Singing a World of Words

Thursday, April 3, 2014
Schwab Family Holocaust Reading Room, Library

Gallery Handout >>

House BlessingThe joy of crafting words into art is the result of the confluence of two areas of beauty: the meaning of the words, and shape of the letters themselves and the spaces they create in becoming forms on paper. In this exhibit of 18 calligraphic paintings, those two aspects of creating visual art from words come together in what I see as a unified arc of experience and perception.

Some of the works shown in this exhibit spoke to me first as poetry and some as song. These are texts culled from Yiddish writers, from sacred texts, and from believers and those who question. Many of the pieces are hand cut from single sheets of paper in the tradition of Jewish papercut art, and one is an extrapolation of traditional design used to fill in the spaces in medieval manuscript illumination, making those design elements themselves the sole focus of the art.

As both a singer and a visual artist, I often bring those two aspects of my life’s work together by crafting a visual home for song text before or while I delve into the voice of the lyric, thus building a bond with the original poet while finding myself in the words. These two gifts in my life-visual art and song-are never separated for long, and my hope is that while viewing this exhibit, you may also hear the whisper of the voices of those who sang the words in the past and who continue to sing them out today.

Please find your own way through the material using the descriptives to set the pieces in time and space. I hope you will begin to see, too, the beauty of the space within and surrounding the words.

Susan Leviton January, 2014

The exhibition is part of programming organized by the Penn State Harrisburg Center for Holocaust and Jewish Studies under the direction of Dr. Simon J. Bronner. The Center acknowledges the support of Dr. Mukund Kulkarni, chancellor, Penn State Harrisburg; Dr. Kathryn Robinson, director of the School of Humanities, Penn State Harrisburg; Dr. Gregory Crawford, library director, Penn State Harrisburg; Irwin and Nancy Aronson, Dr. Madlyn Hanes, Neil Leifert, Kurt and Doris Moses, Linda Schwab, Harry Yaverbaum, and Eileen Zagon.

Lead Scholar: Simon J. Bronner
Curator: Spero Lappas
Administrative Support: Ella Dowell
Graphics: Sharon Siegfried
Website: Center for Holocaust and Jewish Studies

Information:717-948-6715,, or


About the Artist:

Susan LevitonA self- described “Jewish Culture Worker,” Susan Leviton expresses her love for, and skill in, the lettering arts by translating Yiddish and Hebrew text into works of art. The ancient craft of papercutting, universally egalitarian in that it requires only paper and a tool to cut it, in Susan’s hands connects to Jewish roots of expression. Her calligraphic works incorporate delicate images from nature, bold expressions of poetry from another century, and exuberant 21st Century statements that connect to historic letter forms.