Though we were both raised Jewish, I think it’s safe to say that my childhood and that of multimedia artist Sara Erenthal couldn’t have been more different. I grew up in a Jewy suburb of Chicago where I went to temple only on the High Holidays and made a lot of jokes about chopped liver.
Sara grew up mostly in Borough Park, Brooklyn as part of a religious group of Haredi Jews called Neturei Karta. Known as being on the furthest fringes of Judaism, members of this group are known for staunchly opposing Zionism and the creation of the state of Israel and having strict rules when it comes to dressing modestly—especially for women.
While I left home to go off to college at 18, Sara left home—and religion—at 17 to travel throughout India and discover what she really wanted to do with her life. Turns out, it was art.
Working in many different mediums, Sara’s art explores her upbringing—from the lack of a decent secular education to the braids she was forced to wear every day as a child—as a way for her to work through the pain and anger she’s held onto from childhood, as well as connect with others possibly going through similar experiences.
Lately, Sara’s canvas has been the streets of Brooklyn, where she once again lives. Her signature “self-conscious self-portrait” can be seen all over Bushwick and elsewhere, from storefronts to construction sites to trash. Yes, trash.
By drawing on things like mattresses left out for the garbage truck or slats of wood leftover from a move, Sara brings new life to objects that would otherwise be discarded or ignored. It also gives people the opportunity to take home a piece of art for free (except for the dirty mattresses. Nobody should take those home).
Along with one of Alma’s video editors, Marissa Roer, I recently followed Sara around Brooklyn watching her do her thing. We then joined her in her home/studio to hear more of her story. It was especially eye-opening to me to hear about how differently two people can grow up under the same religion.
Below is a short doc that will give you a glimpse into Sara’s life and art—and where the two combine.