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Nomi Kaplan

  • born in 1933 in Memel, Lithuania
  • immigrated to Vancouver, British Columbia in 1940
  • studied at Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan; University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia; and the Vancouver School of Art, where she received a diploma in painting and printmaking

expanded images click on thumbnails at left to view larger images

Throughout her artistic career Nomi Kaplan has pursued many different concerns, relating to women and minorities, the Holocaust, and the cycles of Nature, exploring a wide range of media such as painting, photography and installation. "Much of my work has to do with the life/death/rebirth cycles," she has written. "I never thought too much about it at the time, mainly because of the immediate excitement of doing the work" (1998). Some of her early photographs are portraits of inmates at the British Columbia Penitentiary, taken when Kaplan was part of a group visiting to implement an education program designed to inform inmates about changing attitudes towards women (1974). In the late seventies, her work was concerned with images of women, still life, and the combining of the two. "The hand-tinted black and white photographs she created during those years included ceremonial still lifes composed of tableware, menorahs, dandelion seed heads, flowered cloths, and flower pots. Through the magic of collage, women’s heads became the centres of exotic plants, flowing hair turned into ivy, and female friends achieved a state of bliss under fallen leaves or surrounded by plums" (Rosenberg, 1995). Kaplan’s use of garden and floral imagery continued with the 1980 series, The Forbidden Plum Tree, a photographic narrative akin to a fairytale, and another series in the 1980s, Ground Works (1982). The latter included Transfigurations, a series of colour photographs documenting the metamorphosis of a fertility figure outlined on the ground in plums into a silhouette of nasturtium blossoms, and Grave Markers, which traced the burying of a dead starling under a pile of dandelion heads, petals, egg shells, plums, and other fertilizers until it became a part of the soil. In other projects from that decade, humourous ventures which Kaplan considers to be relief from her more serious work, the artist played with the effect of using collage to situate figures taken out of famous art historical images into modern settings. In the fashion designer rooms in Transfixions (1982), historical figures and angels lurked in the place of models, and in graffiti-covered streets and alleys in Brooklyn Illuminations (1985-87) Ottoman soldiers, saints, Madonnas, Adam and Eve, devils and cherubim wander through the graffiti-covered and littered streets of Brooklyn. In 1986 Kaplan took part in the Surrey Art Gallery's site-specific sculpture show, Six Projects for Surrey, which invited six artists to place works in public areas in and around Surrey, British Columbia. For her piece, Kaplan returned to the theme of nature and the cycle of birth and death with a site that combined planted plum trees, symbols of life and renewal, with the excavation of a baby's grave. Initially installed as a burial scene, Excavation Site, #1, Foundling was repeatedly vandalized until Kaplan decided to change the focus to an excavation that was fenced off. "The fictionalized staging of Foundling as a 'discovery' gave Kaplan a context to secure the work with wire netting, and to make public a burial site which represented a private rite of passage" (Ho, 1990). In 1988 Kaplan became absorbed by the Holocaust and the disappearance of Jewish life in Europe. She visited Berlin and Munich that year searching for signs of Judaism. Finding almost no acknowledgment of Hitler's destruction, she created the series Kaddish, her own mourning for the Jewish dead, including her father's family. Kaplan worked at piecing together a story of the Holocaust, and using extensive photo-documentation and videotape of Nazi rallies, medical experiments, mass burials, camp conditions, and the liberation of survivors who were barely alive, she created several works such as Dachau Barracks, Dachau Windows and Kaddish (1990). In 1991 Kaplan travelled to Poland and took rubbings of headstones in Warsaw cemeteries, also visiting Aushwitz, Treblinka and Majdanek. The rubbings evolved into the series Touched Stones (1992). In 1992 the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre held a twenty-year retrospective of Kaplan's work, showing the Kaddish series and also earlier, and later, images of death as part of the cycle of rebirth. Included was the work called Chestnuts (1992 work-in-progress), a photodocumentation of the growth cycle of scattered chestnuts which surprised the artist by taking root in the ground and sprouting. "The chestnut trees were my artist's affirmation of hope in the face of despair," she comments, "a determination to find new and vigorous life in an otherwise hopeless and barren landscape. I have collected, planted and sustained chestnuts from the mid-nineties and onwards. They have nothing to do with Hitler, but they have something to do with the Shoah" (1998). In 1972 Kaplan was involved with Women and Film, helping to organize the first Women's Film Festival in Vancouver. From this a new group called Reelfeelings was formed, a media collective producing work that aimed to provide a voice for minority groups. Kaplan has taught photography at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design, Vancouver (1991 to 1994) and in 1984 won second prize for her "Photographic Essay" portfolio at the Maine Photographic Workshop Annual Print Competition.



1995 Regenerations: A Twenty Year Retrospective
Holocaust Education Centre, Vancouver Jewish Community Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia


1993-91 Kaddish
Photographers Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Presentation House Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia; Le mois de la photo à Montréal, La Maison de la culture Frontenac, Montréal, Québec


1989-88 Brooklyn Illuminations
Gallery Connexion, Fredericton, New Brunswick; Vu, Québec City, Québec;
Dazibao, Montréal, Québec; Artcite, Windsor, Ontario; Charles H. Scott Gallery, Emily Carr College of Art and Design, Vancouver, British Columbia; Photographers Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan


1987 Transfixions
Sunshine Coast Arts Centre, Sechelt, British Columbia; Floating Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba; Gallery 44, Toronto, Ontario


1985 Sanctuary
Powerhouse, Montréal, Québec


1984 Groundwork
Presentation House Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia


1983 Transfigurations
Jerusalem Artists House, Israel


1982 Manipulations
Dazibao, Montréal, Québec


1981 Viewspace, Vancouver, British Columbia


1980 Fine Arts Gallery, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia


1979 People in My Life
Powerhouse, Montréal, Québec



1996 Photomontage
Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa, Ontario


1995 Spectacular State: Fascism and the Modern Imagination
Teck Gallery, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia; Foto Base Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia; Holocaust Education Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia


1993 Artropolis 93: Public Art and Art about Public Issues
(Installation collaboration with Marcia Pitch)
Artropolis, Vancouver, British Columbia


1992-91 Kaddish
Port Angeles Art Centre, Port Angeles, Washington; Jewish Community Centre, Victoria, British Columbia


1991 Salon
Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia

The Garden Show
Exposure Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia

Le mois de la photo à Montréal
Vox Populi, Montréal, Québec


1990 Artwork for AIDS (Photography and poster image, catalogue)
Seattle, Washington

Brooklyn Illuminations
Maveety Gallery, Portland, Oregon

Art and the Holocaust
Vancouver Holocaust Centre Society's Sunday Series, J.C.C. Zack Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia


1988 Nomi Kaplan, Susan Ziereisen
Dazibao, Montréal, Québec


1987 Transfixions
Lightwork, Syracuse, New York; SAW Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario; Artropolis, Vancouver, British Columbia

Artropolis: Exhibition of Contemporary British Columbia Art
Artropolis, Vancouver, British Columbia


1986 New Photographics '86
Central Washington University, Ellensburg, Washington


1985 British Columbia Women Artists, 1885-1985
Art Gallery of Greater Vancouver, Vancouver, British Columbia

New Photographics '85
Central Washington University, Ellensburg, Washington


1984 Warehouse Show: Local Contemporary Art
Vancouver, British Columbia

Ledel Gallery, New York, New York


1983 The Farm Project
Washington site-specific sculpture

October Show
Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia


1982-79 Photography
Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia (travelling) Photographers Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Equivalents Gallery, Seattle, Washington; Optica, Montréal, Québec; Robson Media Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia; Foto Gallery, New York, New York; Helen Pitt Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia; Déjà Vu Gallery, Toronto, Ontario; Viewspace Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia; Second Street Gallery, Charlottesville, Virginia; Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta



Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York
Canada Council Art Bank, Ottawa, Ontario
Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa, Ontario
Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta
Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba



Bentley, Allen. "Brooklyn Illuminations." Arts Atlantic 9, no. 3 (Fall 1989): 17-18.

Canada Council Art Bank Catalogue, 1972-1987. Ottawa, Ontario: Canada Council, 1987.

Coleman, A.D. "North of the border, up Canada way." Camera Darkroom (February 1992): 20-27.

Feder, Elena. "Nomi Kaplan: The road to Kaddish." Blackflash 10, no. 4 (Winter 1992): 7-10.

Gingras, Nicole, Serge Bérard, Louise Abbott, et al. Le Mois de la photo à Montréal. Montréal, Québec: Vox Populi, 1991.

Harris, Steve, David MacWilliam, Russell Keziere, et al. October Show. Vancouver, British Columbia: Contemporary Art Gallery, 1983.

Ho, Rosa, Nick Brdar, and Nomi Kaplan. Six Projects for Surrey. Surrey, British Columbia: Surrey Art Gallery, 1990.

Hurtig, Annette, Ian Wallace, Scott Watson, et al. Artropolis: Exhibition of Contemporary British Columbia Art. Vancouver, British Columbia: Artropolis, 1987.

Kaplan, Nomi, Christos Dikeakos, and Ann Rosenberg. Nomi Kaplan: Brooklyn Illuminations. Vancouver, British Columbia: Charles H. Scott Gallery, 1988.

Kelly, Sue, Lisa Langford, Francesca Lund, et al. Artropolis 93: Public Art and Art about Public Issues. Vancouver, British Columbia: AT Eight Artropolis Society, 1993.

Lawlor, Michael Christopher. "Nomi Kaplan: Brooklyn Illuminations." Blackflash 6, no. 1 (Spring 1988): 13-19.

Musiol, Marie-Jeanne. L'autre oeil: Le nu féminin dans l'art masculin. Montréal, Québec: Les éditions de la pleine lune, 1988.

Rosenberg, Ann. "A brief introduction to Regenerations: A twenty year retrospective." Zachor - Remember: Newsletter of the Vancouver Holocaust Centre Society (September 1995): 2-3.

---. "A twenty year retrospective of Nomi Kaplan's art: Regenerations." Artichoke (Fall/Winter 1995): 11-13.

Tuele, Nicholas, Christine Dean-Johnson, and Roberta Pazdro. British Columbia Women Artists, 1885-1985. Victoria, British Columbia: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 1985.

Varney, Ed, Joyce Woods, Irene Dual, et al. Warehouse Show: Local Contemporary Art. Vancouver, British Columbia: Warehouse Show, 1985.

Wollheim, Peter, Nomi Kaplan, Tom Knott, et al. "West Coast Review." New: West Coast Photographers 16, nos. 2-3 (October 1981/January 1982): n.p.

Wood, William. "Projectionists." Vanguard 17, no. 3 (Summer 1988): 38.

Zwartsenberg, Annebet, Rina Fraticelli, Suzanne de Lotnière-Harwood, et al. Québec Women in the 80s: A Portrait. Montréal, Québec: Éditions de Remue-Ménage, 1986.


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