Self / Referential


Four immigrant artists probe the channels between cultures and continents.

Curator: Janet Heit.


Art by Siona Benjamin, Katarzyna Kozera, Yona Verwer & Julian Voloj

(India, Poland, The Netherlands, Colombia)

About the artists:

Siona Benjamin is a painter originally from Bombay, now living in the US. Her work reflects her background of being brought up Jewish in a predominantly Hindu and Muslim India. In her paintings she combines the imagery of her past with the role she plays in America today, making a mosaic inspired by both Indian miniature paintings and Sephardic icons.

She has her a MFAs in painting and in Theater set design. She has exhibited in the US, Europe and Asia. She has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in 2010-11 for the art project titled: Faces: Weaving Indian Jewish Narratives.

Her work has been featured in: The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Financial Times, The Boston Globe, Art in America, Art New England, Art and Antiques, ArtNews, Moment magazine.


Polish-born, New York based Katarzyna Kozera is a multi-media artist, art director and photographer. She received a Fulbright Scholarship from the Maryland Institute College of Arts, and the 2013 Erasmus Scholarship of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium.

Kozera designed the multimedia part of the core exhibition at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Poland, one of the biggest projects of its kind. She designed multimedia aspects of exhibitions for major museums, such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC, South Carolina Historical Society, Charleston SC, San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site, and the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem, Israel.


Dutch-born Yona Verwer creates works that explore identity, immigration, heritage, tikkun olam, and kabbalah.

Verwer holds a master’s degree in fine art from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague.

Her work has been exhibited at the Andy Warhol Factory, Jerusalem Biennale, the Bronx Museum, Yeshiva University Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art, Center for Jewish History, Mizel Museum, Reginald Lewis Museum of African-American Art, Stanback Museum, Canton Museum of Art, and the Holocaust Memorial Center.

She has been featured in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Ars Judaica, the Huffington Post, the Daily News, the Forward, the Jewish Week, Sh’ma Journal.


Award-winning photographer and writer Julian Voloj was born in Germany to Latin American parents. Pooling both from his indigenous-Colombian and Jewish roots, his work explores questions of identity and cultural heritage. His critically acclaimed graphic novel “Ghetto Brother” documented the life of Puerto Rican Jewish activist Benjamin Melendez and the Bronx gang truce that kickstarted hip hop. The book was praised by Junot Diaz in the New York Times as a ‘gem’ and named one of the top ten graphic novels in 2016. For the exhibition he will present photographs and original pages from “Ghetto Brother.”

About the curator:

Janet Heit is a New York-based writer and curator with a keen interest in artists working outside the commercial mainstream.

She will be curating the 2019 Jewish Art Salon exhibition Spinoza: Marrano of Reason at the Amstelkerk, Amsterdam, and Plein van Siena, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

She is a former curator for the Bronx Museum, AIR Gallery, the Whitney ISP, Cityarts Workshop, Southern Arts Federation, and elsewhere.

She has also been producer or speaker for Artists Talk on Art, Art Initiatives, Cooper Union, the College Art Association, and other venues.

Janet is the author of numerous reviews, monographs and catalogues, and a recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Helena Rubinstein Foundation.

Curatorial Statement:

The drive of immigrants to reestablish their lives, and the desire to merge one’s own culture with a new home, gives birth to a particular kind of creative, entrepreneurial energy. And here in NYC, we thrive on that embrace. The artists in Self/Referential - Siona Benjamin, Yona Verwer, Katarzyna Kozera, and Julian Voloj - process and play with their experiences and encounters, having arrived here via India, the Netherlands, Poland, and Germany, respectively. In addition to being immigrants, all four artists are Jewish (and in Voloj’s instance, also Latino). This complex, minority-within-minority identities embeds multiple meanings into their creative practice - and in the case of Verwer and Kozera, embeds are literally contained within the work.

Available for screening is "Blue Like Me", a documentary that profiles painter Siona Benjamin, who was raised in a rare, 2000-year-old Jewish community in India.

The artists and I are very familiar with The Clemente. We know a dozen artists who have studios there, and we have enjoyed visiting gallery exhibitions and performances over the years. The Clemente's location on the LES, where many immigrants started out, is a direct connection to the theme of the exhibition.

  1. -Janet Heit