Art Show at the Temple’s Java Nagilla Gallery
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Art Show at the Temple’s Java Nagilla Gallery

A metalsmith and folk artist are featured in this new show.

Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.

Three silver rings by Coddon
Three silver rings by Coddon

On May 27, a new exhibit opened in the charming Java Nagilla Gallery at The Temple, with a reception following Friday evening services. This month, the gallery showcases the work of two award-winning artists and members of the Temple: Susan Coddon and Beth Thomsen.

While the artists work in very different media — Coddon is a metalsmith, while Thomsen makes art out of paper and found objects — the work in the show has a common thread. Most of the art was created during the pandemic as both a distraction from and reaction to personal changes and disturbing current events.

Coddon creates fine sculpture, jewelry, tableware and hollowware out of precious metals.

Metalsmith Susan Coddon poses with her work at the gallery.

Her work is heavily influenced by her seven-year stay in Japan, where she was fascinated by origami principles.

“I fell in love with origami as a child, but [much later learned] that it is dependent on mathematical principles,” she said. Coddon realized that she could use her mathematical skills to create the kind of art she wanted to make.

Jill Slavin curates the Java Nagilla gallery exhibits.

Coddon often starts with drawings, constructs her concepts in three-dimensional heavy paper, then tests her work in copper before executing the final pieces in sterling or bimetal (gold layered over silver).

“My home studio is my haven,” she said. Using torches and band saws requires intense concentration. I love getting lost in the process of making.” Coddon’s work has been exhibited in the United States, Spain and Japan and been part of several prestigious competitions.

Temple member and artist Beth Thomsen during installation at Java Nagilla.

Beth Thomsen is a folk artist who fashions ketubot and other ritually related art out of wedding and b’nai mitzvah invitations. Some collages include found letters from the early 1900s, and a variety of boxes are covered with handmade paper. “I make art out of anything that intrigues me,” she explains. “I use found objects, clay, paint, photographs, wood, tree bark, whatever gives me the texture I need for my work.

“The Boxes are in two categories: water and sun. Both are needed equally for crops to grow and thrive. The House/Door series and the USA Panels series are created from paper I have made. The pulp is all plant material, harvested and made in small batches.”

Thomsen’s favorite piece in the show

Thomsen is most proud of the USA Panels, a series of nine small collages created during the last presidential election. “I [needed] to work out my very visceral feelings of patriotism, angst, confusion, frustration and anger,” she said. “Playing ukulele, teaching elementary art, working at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta, and making my own art over the years has provided me with the creativity I crave and the energy that feeds my soul.”

The Java Nagilla Gallery, which opened in 2018, was the idea of volunteer Jill Slavin, who previously volunteered for the Atlanta Red Cross and has a background in art, writing and consulting for major Atlanta media. Slavin is also an accomplished pottery artist, who developed unusual glaze application techniques and wrote kiln formulas to produce glass jewelry.

A piece from Thomsen’s “Door Series”

In 2016, however, when Slavin and her husband moved from the suburbs to an apartment in Midtown, it was impossible to bring her kiln — which fired at 2,500 degrees — into a 12-story building with wood floors and no ventilation. Slavin considered her next step. She was about to show her work in an exhibit at the High Museum when Rabbi Lydia Medwin, the Temple’s director of engagement, approached Slavin to expand the use of Java Nagilla.

Slavin accepted the challenge and “decided to become a one-woman jury and curator, successfully mounting three shows a year to present the work of talented Temple members.”

Since 2018, the gallery has hosted the work of more than a dozen artists from the congregation, working in a variety of media.

“In many ways,” Slavin said, “I consider this my most successful art endeavor.”

The Java Nagilla Gallery is open whenever The Temple is open. Contact Jill Slavin at to learn more about the gallery shows.

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