Whatever Is Contained Must Be Released: My Jewish Orthodox Girlhood, My Life as a Feminist Artist

Helene Aylon (Author)
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A "richly evocative, captivating, and reflective memoir" of a feminist artist who broke free of the limits placed on her by family, Judaism and society (Publishers Weekly).

Growing up an Orthodox Jew in Brooklyn, Helene Aylon spent her Friday nights in a sea of extended family as the Sabbath candles flickered. Passionate about art, she dreamt of escaping the strict, secular world of her youth, but instead married a rabbi and became a mother of two. Then, her world was split apart when her husband was diagnosed with cancer, and Aylon found herself widowed at thirty.

Free to explore both her own soul and the changing world around her, Aylon sought a home in the burgeoning environmental art scene of the 1970s--creating transgressive works that explore identity, women's bodies, the environment, disarmament, and the notion of God. Finally, she dares to asks of Judaism: Where are the women?

With many examples of her work included within, Whatever is Contained "is an arresting tale of uncommon courage, intelligence, and wit" following Aylon's search for truth in art, and the links between feminism and Judaism (Gail Levin, author of Lee Krasner: A Biography and Becoming Judy Chicago).

Product Details

$29.95  $27.55
Feminist Press
Publish Date
May 15, 2012
7.2 X 0.7 X 8.9 inches | 1.4 pounds

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About the Author

Helène Aylon (1931-2020) was a visual, conceptual installation performance artist and ecofeminist whose art has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum in New York; the Jewish Museum in New York; the Aldrich Museum in Connecticut; and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, among many others. Her work can be divided into three phases: process art (1970s), antinuclear art (1980s), and The G-d Project (1990s and early 2000s), a feminist commentary on the Hebrew Bible and other established traditions. Throughout her career she collaborated with many major artists and writers, including Ana Mendieta, Grace Paley, Ad Reinhardt, and Mark Rothko. In 2016 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women's Caucus for Art.


"Never afraid to question sacred texts, ancient rituals, and religious bias--Aylon is a role model for all artists. Whatever is Contained is an arresting tale of uncommon courage, intelligence, and wit."
--Gail Levin, author of Lee Krasner: A Biography and Becoming Judy Chicago