“Finding your medium is sort of like falling in love”

Meet some local artists who are creating art with unexpected media

ArtsUnconventional image
This mandala is called “Unalome.” (Credit: Sumara Fireside)

When we picture painting on a canvas, acrylic and watercolor paint, not hot wax, more likely come to mind. But when it comes to creative expression, these Chicago Jewish artists are creating outside the (paint)box with untraditional artistic media. 


Jane Weintraub 

Jane Weintraub was an art major in college, but it was the metal-working and jewelry-making classes that she took off campus that first piqued her interest in those specialties. 

Then, when she took classes in Europe after graduation, her interest in metalwork really started to gel for her. "Finding your medium is sort of like falling in love," said Weintraub, who holds a Master's in Fine Arts. "When you touch certain materials, you know it's right-nothing logical, just the feeling of endless possibilities. As soon as I started [creating] with metal, I loved it. I just loved it."  

Now a trained metalsmith and jeweler, Weintraub examines ritual and mythology through her art. Her functional art explores Jewish practice and tradition, and weaves her interest in Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, into her work. A professor emerita at Northeastern Illinois University, Weintraub now works full time in her Highland Park studio.


Karen Ross 

Artist Karen Ross also fell in love with a more untraditional medium when she discovered painting with hot wax. 

A former psychotherapist, Ross' journey with this unique medium started when she moved to the suburbs two decades ago, and wanted to fill her new Deerfield home with "real art-but there wasn't a budget for real art." So, Ross decided she'd make her own. "I started painting with acrylics, but I couldn't get the acrylic paint to give me the texture or the vibrancy I was trying to achieve," she said. 

Next stop, YouTube, which Ross likes to call "Life University." Ultimately, she came across a filtered beeswax called damar resin, combined it with her love of mixed media, and her new passion was born. 

Ross said that this multi-layered process of painting allows her to create art that "has so much texture and luminosity. But you really need to see it in person appreciate the full effect." 


Sumara Fireside 

Sumara Fireside's art explores the nexus between the natural and spiritual world.   

A visual artist and creative director for the International Interior Design Association, she creates mandalas-a geometric design consisting of live flowers, plants, and found objects-steeped in symbolism from various spiritual traditions.  

"I create these botanical pieces that have a lot of sacred geometry to them," said Fireside, of Highland Park. "Then I incorporate ritual objects and sacred objects from different faiths."  

One such faith is Judaism. She has weaved Jewish ritual objects into some of her work, including flower parts from a chuppah. She hopes to incorporate her father's mezuzah into an upcoming piece. 

The artist first explored mandalas when she was earning her MFA in design. "I challenged myself to create something from what I found around me, looking at objects that I had collected over the years that were tied to spirituality." 


bari wieselman schulman 

You could call artist, writer, and behavioral scientist *bari wieselman schulman a Renaissance woman. The Deerfield resident and her fellow artist husband founded the rethinkreframe mixed-media studio and shop.  

wieselman schulman, who earned her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at the University of Chicago, says her eclectic experiences from her psychology background to working in the design world to living abroad with her family inform and shape her modern abstract paintings, created primarily with acrylic paint. Her academic focus on language development, for example, shows up as a through line in her art.  

"I'm interested in the relationship and dialogue that brings the viewer in, and color, for me, [serves] as another language, another form of communication. I think about the viewer as really being a participant in a dialogue." 

(*This artist lowercases her name for stylistic reasons.)  


For more information, please visit the artists' websites: 






Rochelle Newman Rubinoff is a freelance writer living in the northern suburbs of Chicago.

AdvertisementHinda Institute
AdvertisementMinds -- Venus Media
AdvertisementBuckingham Pavilion
Connect with us