Channeling Tradition: The functional art of Margalit Romano

by Sydney Vogl

 

Margalit Romano is having a love affair with color, and we can’t get enough. The artist, known for her daring use of color, has introduced a series of Jewish functional art pieces, creating mesmerizing challah boards that blend her signature style with her cultural heritage. Wood, spray paint, and leather are just a few of the mediums utilized in the creation of her Challah boards, giving a unique experience for all families celebrating Shabbat or Yom Tov.

 

 

This isn’t the first time Romano has pushed boundaries with her art. Color has always been a big part of her life and plays a significant role in all of her series’. “I love the playful, childlike wonder that comes with an amazing burst of color,” she says. “I try to combine that playfulness with a sophisticated edge, so people can hang the pieces in their homes and businesses.”

 

 

Aside from color, Romano also takes inspiration from her surroundings. Growing up on the east coast, she spent most summers at Coney Island, watching the waves roll in. This later inspired her Elysian series. “The painting in the series are either the depths of the ocean or the spans of a night sky, with a healthy dose of color.” In a world of smartphones and constant rush, Romano uses her art as a way to freeze time and capture moments by “enhancing details and organic shapes that are found in [her] environment.”

 

 

Following her artistic tendencies, Romano went on to study art history in college but has never had any formal fine art training. She views this as a strength. “If I went to art school I know I wouldn’t be the artist I am today. Exploring techniques on my own has allowed to me to really find myself and my style as an artist.”

 

 

In 2014, Romano created the Flora series, arguably the most iconic piece of her career. “Out of all my series’, Flora stands out as [the most] Margalit,” she says. The Flora series allows the viewer to satisfy an urge buried deep in childhood: to touch a piece of art. Romano encourages viewers to embrace their curiosity and touch the 3D roses. This openness and exploration speaks to the way she views her art. “I become obsessed with new materials I find and I can’t stop painting until I perfect the concept. The ideas take over and I run wild with them.”

Romano has never been one to keep the same aesthetic for very long, and she has now begun incorporating her Jewish heritage into functional art pieces. The inspiration originally came from an acquaintance who wanted her to make something for the Sabbath. As she puts is: “He didn’t care what it was, what size it was, what it looked like — as long as I made it.” From that her Challah boards were born, but not before lots of brainstorming. “I took weeks figuring out what this piece would be. When I came up with the idea for a Challah board, I was so excited, but just like Flora, I had no idea what a demand there would be for it.”

With such delicate and effortless beauty, you would have no idea how complicated the process was behind them. “Each piece is made on wood… and I hand paint each piece. Clients can customize their lettering which is either hand painted or custom cut vinyl in about 50 colors. Once everything is dry, I coat each piece with kitchen grade food safe resin that can handle heat and standard kitchen use, such as slicing. The resin is mixed and torched, and I allow it to dry for a minimum of three days… After the resin cures, I sand each piece and paint the backs. They are then signed, and I attach rubber slip guards.”

Challah boards are an important part of Jewish traditions, and with this series, Romano gets to be a part of each family’s experience. “I’ve had so many people tell me how special I should feel, that I essentially get to be a part of their bonding time with their families.”

Romano is an unpredictable, daring artist who is constantly changing her aesthetic, mediums and inspiration. It’s safe to say Romano has created another successful series and we can’t wait to see what she does next.

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