Helene Aylon

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Helène Aylon
Born (1931-02-04)February 4, 1931
Brooklyn, New York
Nationality American
Education Brooklyn College
Known for Painting, Installation art, Multimedia art

Helène Aylon (born February 4, 1931 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American multimedia ecofeminist artist. Her work can be divided into three phases: Process art in the '70s; anti-nuclear art in the '80s; and The G-d Project, a feminist commentary on the Hebrew Bible and other established traditions, in the '90s and 2000s.

Early life[edit]

At age 18, Helen Greenfeld married Rabbi Mandel H. Fisch (born 1926). She lived a life as a Rabbi’s wife as her husband, a Yeshiva University graduate, first served as Rabbi in Montreal and then in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn. Rabbi Fisch became ill with cancer in 1956, and died five years later on Feb. 15, 1961, leaving behind his 30 year old wife and two small children. After his death, she changed her name to Helen Ayalon.[1]


Aylon's daughter is the drama therapy pioneer Renée Emunah, and her son is Nathaniel Fisch, director of the Graduate Program in Plasma Physics[2] (a graduate degree program within the Department of Astrophysical Sciences)[3]) at Princeton University.


Her first large work was a 16-foot wall painting commissioned in 1965 for the now-extinct library in the chapel of New York’s JFK Airport, which was featured in ARTnews in December 1966.

Process art[edit]

In 1970 and 1972, Aylon showed at Max Hutchinson Gallery in SoHo, and in 1975 and 1979 she showed her Paintings that Change in Time at Betty Parsons Gallery, Susan Caldwell Gallery, MIT, and the Oakland Museum. Her best-known Process art of the 1970s includes Paintings that Change in Time and The Breakings, both relying on poured linseed oil, gravity, and chance.

Anti-nuclear art[edit]

In the 1980s, Aylon's work focused on anti-nuclear activism. In her monumental kinetic performance saga The Earth Ambulance, she gathered soil from Strategic Air Command nuclear bases across the country into pillowcases and transported them to the United Nations Second Special Session on Disarmament on June 12, 1982. The Earth Ambulance was shown in the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage by Creative Time in 1992, and was acquired and shown at the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art in Peekskill, New York, from 2004 to 2008. Her ongoing Bridge of Knots installations, covering the facades of museums with knotted pillowcases scripted with dreams and nightmares about nuclear war, have been shown at the Knoxville Museum of Art in 1993, the Berkeley Art Museum in 1995, and the American University Museum, Washington, D.C. in 2006. In 1995, Aylon's video of two sacs en route on the waters of Japan to Hiroshima and Nagasaki was shown on the Sony Jumbotron in Times Square.

The G-d Project[edit]

Aylon's two-decade body of work, The G-d Project: Nine Houses Without Women, is a series of installations confronting gender inequality and acknowledging forgotten foremothers. The first of the nine installations is The Liberation of G-d, a "reexamination of sacred texts from a feminist point of view [that] is very much in keeping with the Jewish tradition of midrash, or biblical commentary, which has engaged Jewish scholars for millenia." The finale, All Rise, is an imagined feminist court, where women who have been forbidden to judge on a Beit Din, the Jewish court of law, can now judge.

Aylon’s work is in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Jewish Museum. She is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the New York State Council for the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She has taught at Hunter College and San Francisco State University, and is a frequent speaker on art, women’s spirituality, and Jewish studies. She lives in New York City.

Her memoir, Whatever Is Contained Must Be Released: My Jewish Orthodox Girlhood — My Life as a Feminist Artist, was published by The Feminist Press in 2012.[4]


  1. ^ Helène Aylon, Whatever Is Contained Must Be Released: My Jewish Orthodox Girlhood, My Life as a Feminist Artist, New York, 2012.
  2. ^ "Dr. Nat Fisch". W3.pppl.gov. Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  3. ^ "Department of Astrophysical Sciences". Princeton.edu. 15 August 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  4. ^ Helène Aylon (2012-05-15). "Whatever Is Contained Must Be Released: My Jewish Orthodox Girlhood, My Life as a Feminist Artist (Jewish Women Writers)". Amazon.com. Retrieved 1 December 2013. 

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