Sculpting A Life offers a fascinating case study of an artist whose life and work embodies themes of gender, migration, displacement and belonging. This first of its kind biography explains the extraordinary conditions in which Chana Orloff lived and carried out a long and prolific career in Ukraine, France, Palestine, and later Israel. By analyzing her hyphenated identities from an intersectional point of view, Birnbaum captures the complexities and tensions between cosmopolitanism and national identity for women artists who live and work in diaspora.
This book is an important contribution to the history of modern art, as well as Jewish history, while highlighting the many layers of gendered issues that impact women’s careers in an age of transnationalism. Although Orloff does not fit neatly into the discipline of art history, which is normatively written according to fixed notions of national style grounded in a stable idea of the nation-state, its enormous contribution is correcting the canon of modernity and offering a more inclusive history of art.