Sculptor Julian Isaacson will unveil a provocative new signature piece, "The Crossroads," during the Ashland Gallery Association's First Friday Art Walk, scheduled for June — from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The unveiling will take place at Illahe Design Studio and Gallery, 500 A Street, Suite 3, in Ashland. The artist will make a personal introduction and unveil his new work at 6 p.m.




"The Crossroads" is a two-dimensional bas-relief, four feet by four feet by one foot in depth, hand carved with hammer and chisel in Carrera Marble. The artist applies a form of direct carving, drawing the "cartoon" directly on the stone, and begins the "cutting in" of the piece once he feels the drawing is ready.




Isaacson is a classically trained sculptor of Osage Indian and Jewish descent. He began studying his father's sculptural work at a very young age, and initially worked solely in hardwood sculpture using only hand tools. After relocating to the West Coast from Vermont in 1986, Isaacson expanded his sculptural repertoire to include marble.




The artist tells his personal history that as a young boy, his family moved to a small town in central Vermont. They were the first Jewish family in that area, and the times and the size of the town were reflected in an anti-Semitic attitude that resulted in verbal and physical persecution throughout his high school years that left a lasting impression on him.




"That experience planted a grain of sand in my soul; much like an oyster feels the discomfort of a grain of sand in his shell," Isaacson said. "I felt the pain and sting of prejudice and anti-Semitism, which taught me not to personally practice that in my life. In processing this experience through the years, combined with watching the state of current events, 'The Crossroads' is the pearl that is being created as a result."




Isaacson's artistic vision stretches beyond his personal experiences, however. He frames himself and his new work in a historical and evolving view of religion and culture.




"My belief is that Christianity is based in Judaic foundations. Jesus was a Rabbi, yet Christians have embraced his message as their own," Isaacson stated. "The Jewish and Christian beliefs are merging in a way never seen before; they used to be individually defined. This point in history reflects a turning point. The Holocaust changed everything for the practicing Jew. Over 6 million Jews were lost in concentration camps; persecuted for their bloodline not their beliefs. Judaism became a culture as opposed to a religion. It resulted in the state of Israel, with a religious group that left Jerusalem as immigrants returning to their homeland as a warring army."




"In retrospect, both Christians and Jews have begun rethinking their beliefs and practices," Isaacson continued. "The Torah speaks to the future and Christianity speaks to the future; neither can afford to be stagnant. Both are looking for what is next in the growth of their religions, and despite the resistance to it, the two are slowly morphing together with common beliers. As a Jewish descendent with a strong belief in God, I am personally watching this process and assessing the impact on the world around me."




In addition to the Isaacson unveiling at the Illahe Design Studio and Gallery, the June First Friday Art Walk will include sculpture and collage works by Minoru and Echiko Ohira at the Davis and Cline Gallery, paintings by Leslie Lee and sculpture by Dennis Meiners at the Hanson Howard Gallery, and "Fables of the Surface," new works by Ann DiSalvo at Studio AB.




Ashland Art Works will feature "Crazy Birds on the Fence," an exhibit of whimsical ceramic birds by Cheryl Kempner, and Gallerie Karon will be offering twenty artists' work in mixed media in a show titled "Husbands, Wives and Lovers &

Side by Side."




All in all, twenty-eight galleries throughout Ashland and the Schneider Museum of Art at Southern Oregon University will present exhibits, music and more during the evening. Walking maps are available at all participating galleries, and more information can be found at .