Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)



First Committee Member

Katherine Farley

Second Committee Member

Wendy Kveck

Third Committee Member

Sean Slattery

Fourth Committee Member

Marcus Civin

Fifth Committee Member

Lynn Comella

Number of Pages



In the Image of... (towards a Trans Talmud) is a body of work by artist Laurence Myers Reese that works to examine Jewish paradigms of gender through the transgender lens. Reading the archive diagonally, he examines historical Jewish writings, from poet and Rabbi Kalonymous Ben Kalonymous to “false Messiah” Shabbatai Tzvi. Contextualizing contemporary Jewish with notable exhibitions from the Jewish Museum New York and Spertus Museum, Chicago, In the Image of… draws from artists, writers, and Rabbis who use a gendered lens to interrogate Judaism. These include Yael Kanarek, who has worked to re-gender the entire Torah, Rena Yehuda Newman, an author investigating trans Jewish sexuality, and Bonny Nahmias, who examines human conflicts and collective actions. The work also looks to current Talmud scholars, including Max Strassfeld, Joy Ladin, and the work of queer yeshiva Svara. The work interprets Talmud and Torah through the transgender lens. From debates of the gender of Abraham and Sarah as “tumtum,” to the potential queerness of Patriarchs and Matriarchs, to the gendered prohibitions against “witchcraft”, to the tale of how a male rabbi developed the ability to breastfeed a child. This paper looks at the talmud through the lens of a transgender artist, and questions what it means to be a transgender Jew through exploration of text. The resulting artworks of B’tzelem use abstract gestures, texts, and Jewish imagery to create a framework for queer Jewish existence. The art incorporates projected text in site specific places to comment on the placement of transgender individuals in religious spaces. Texts from prominent transgender theologians and the Babylonian Talmud are painted on walls, ceilings and floors to envelop the reader in text, drawing on mystical interpretations of creation and forcing the viewer to grapple with trans.


installation art; Jewish art; painting; Talmud; transgender studies; zines


Fine Arts | History of Religion | Jewish Studies | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Psychiatric and Mental Health

File Format


File Size

18300 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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