About the Artist Clara Maria Goldstein

Clara Maria Goldstein

Clara Maria Goldstein, an artist who considers herself spiritual but not religious, creates intimate and personal paintings on religious themes. It surprises and sometimes upsets Goldstein that her work has been the subject of controversies in her community. Why? Because her favorite subject—the Jewish identity of Jesus—seems to generate misunderstandings despite its basis in historical fact.  Goldstein, in both her life and work, is interested in the ways that two great religions share a common value. “Christianity and Judaism both teach us to love God,” she asserts. 


This dualistic point of view is the natural product of Goldstein’s bi-cultural life. Goldstein initially came to the United States with her first husband and daughter. Then after a divorce, she married a fellow law student from New York and converted to Judaism. She and her current husband have since raised their two sons Jewish, while her daughter remained Christian. “It’s about respecting our differences and sharing our spiritual common ground,” Goldstein explains. 


When she began her conversion, Goldstein remembers having “no idea” what it meant to be Jewish. Soon she found herself thinking about Jesus in a Jewish context. Among other things, she was struck by the fact that Jesus prayed in Hebrew because he was Jewish. This coincided with what she had learned from the Christian bible while growing up: that Jesus was Jewish. As she now recalls:


“The fact that struck me the most was that Jesus’ religion was Judaism. I know it sounds stupid, but I didn't know he was a rabbi and actually, this was kind of confusing to contemplate. Later, I felt as if I had made a huge discovery that I needed to share with many people, who like me, wouldn't know about this.” When she began painting in 2005, Goldstein looked for a way to portray Jesus’ Judaism. Self-taught at first, she found that she was attracted to the works of many great artists of the past—including Rembrandt, Mark Chagall and Monet—and also to the works of her Nicaraguan countryman, the late Armando Morales (1927-2011). 


Now active as a painter for over a decade, Goldstein has assembled an affectionate and open-hearted series about Jesus’ Judaism. She has completed a total of over 95 paintings including a series depicting Rabbi Jesus as well as images of the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, and Jesus’ disciples as Jews. In a style that ranges from realistic to semi-abstract, Goldstein endows her subjects with characteristic warmth by favoring soft tonalities and impasto surfaces. All of her paintings about Jesus’ Judaism have crushed sand from Israel sprinkled into the paint to create a symbolic connection to the Holy Land. Goldstein’s inspirations often come to her at 3AM, in the form of waking dreams that are transcribed into one of her notebooks.  


Given her commitment to art that makes a statement: one that repudiates the flawed anti-Semitic belief that the Jews killed Jesus and are the sons of the devil as stated in the New Testament. Goldstein is careful to make it clear that her art is based on Jesus’ message of love, rather than on New Testament literalism. She embraces the shared values of Christianity and Judaism and its shared commandments to love God and one another. Because of her familiarity with the New Testament—which she grew up listening to in church—she knows and understands how many people could interpret it literally and believe that it is the word of God. “The idea that some people might think of my boys as ‘Christ-killers’ and belonging to a religion that worships the devil makes me feel awful, as does the frightening idea that because of these beliefs somebody may want to harm my boys,” Goldstein comments. For that reason, in her paintings of Rabbi Jesus, she tries to convey the dual message that Judaism is a religion that revolves around God and around love.


Clara Maria Goldstein paints what she does the way she does, hoping that her viewers will feel love and connection. “ I stay clear from taking sides in my paintings on the issue of whether Jesus was the Messiah,” Goldstein notes, “since this is the main point of  contention between Christians and Jews. The Jews aren't the enemies of Jesus; hatred is. I do hope for an end to Christian anti-Semitism and for my art to advance this necessary transformation.”