Many of you know renowned local artist, Paul Palnik, for his unique, spiritually-themed, cartoon-style works of art that are featured in The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at the Wexner Center. His witty and detailed pen-and-ink drawings are world-famous, yet he calls Bexley home and is a long-time JCC member.
But did you know that Paul Palnik has created a new cartoon poster in honor of the Jewish Community Center’s 100th Anniversary? That’s right; Palnik has brought his charm, wit, and spiritual yet whimsical approach to art to the JCC 100 Anniversary celebration. This heartfelt, original creation on display in the JCC lobby features 100 memories of the JCC, humorously reflecting on everything from JCC swim lessons to the old bowling alley to the Hoover ropes course.
Palnik’s work has sold all over the world, from Japan to South Africa, Poland to the UK. Although his work is world-renowned, the humble artist is proud to have gotten his start “standing on Columbus’ street corners…at these outdoor art shows, sometimes in the rain, standing like a schmendrick selling cartoons,” he said. His life, in some ways, reflects his art, which, he said, has two themes, “the profound and the absurd, and they oftentimes mix together. I have a philosophy that you can sit down on a city bus, and the guy next to you could be in hell, and I could be in heaven. That’s why I choose [to use only the medium of] black and white [ink]—the profoundly absurd, heaven/hell, good/evil, man/woman, creator/creation. …I like those meeting points.”
Palnik’s biggest influence was his mentor and former professor at The Ohio State University, the late Sid Chafetz. “He was my creative father. We became friends until his death this year. When he died I cried like a baby. He changed everything for me. No Sid Chafetz, no Paul Palnik. I stand on the shoulders of people who came before me.”
It is the people who came before him who he reflected on the most as he created this one-of-a-kind poster celebrating 100 years of the JCC, which truly preserves the history and memories of the JCC, for him and so many others. Palnik has lived in Columbus since coming to The Ohio State University as an undergrad in the ‘60s, and has been a JCC member ever since. His poster, titled, “I Love the JCC! 100 Years Young and Better than Ever,” demonstrates the passion he has for the Columbus Jewish community and for the JCC, he said, and it honors the memory of dear friends he met there through the years.
“The people, certain personalities, are my favorite memory,” Palnik explained. “Many of them have passed away. I just remember all the old guys who are gone now. They’re part of [this poster]. …That’s why this is meaningful for me. There were so many wonderful, wonderful men, men like Moe Mendelson and Moe’s father, and Hani Hara’s father—wonderful, colorful, Yiddish kind of characters. I remember Dan Harrison who was the head of the Hebrew School. They taught me so much,” Palnik recalled.
For the JCC 100 poster, he has taken his memories of old, familiar friends and his strong sense of the Creator being in all things, he said, and worked them into the poster in small ways. “I sneak as much in as I can. I have a sunny faith, it’s a happy faith. I couldn’t name it all, so I tried not naming. There are so many wonderful people. You can’t name them all…. But the Jewish Center’s made up of people. It’s the people who make it what it is. I feel in oneness with the Jewish people. …That is fixed in my soul,” said Palnik.
For his work, Palnik has been noted as “an artist who expresses his philosophy in images and fantasies drawn with originality. He is in his own way, unique,” by Isaac Bashevis Singer, Nobel Prize Winner for Literature. Along with Singer’s praise, Palnik is proud and honored to be admired by the Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, who said of Palnik’s work, “Palnik’s calendar with its words and drawings is a gift, a beautiful gift.”
What are your favorite memories of the JCC? You are guaranteed to find them in this poster, thoughtfully and carefully crafted by Palnik using memorable submissions from members like you. Now, you, too, can own a piece of history. These limited edition prints are signed and numbered; order yours now for one of 100 unique JCC 100 posters.
And, if you want a more personalized version of these comic strip-style posters, an additional set of posters has been created, each featuring a blank, individual square where your personal JCC story can be added by none other than the artist himself. Palnik will personally come to the JCC to create a matchless design just for you to enjoy and pass down from generation to generation, just like the JCC.
Palnik explained how he will create these personalized squares. “I will talk to them a little bit…get to know them,” he said. As a lifetime practitioner of meditation, the deeply spiritual and self-described mystic explained his process of taking just a few small details and turning them into a completely distinctive piece that, he said, will reflect the soul of the poster’s owner. “I have a kind of a third eye, a spiritual eye and I can see into people. I can see everything about them. I can see things that others don’t see.”
The idea for an exclusive JCC 100 poster came from a collaboration between former Associate Executive Director David Valinsky, Hani Hara, and Paul Palnik. Valinsky and Hara approached Palnik about creating some sort of artwork that would reflect the 100 years of JCC history, featuring members’ memories, and would become a collector’s item. But the idea evolved into much more, explained collaborator and artist in his own right, Hani Hara.
Hara designed one of the murals that Harmony Project volunteers recently painted and installed as part of the beautification effort of the Livingston Avenue Streetcar District. Hara also created the visually stunning JCC 100 Birthday Card and chairs the JCC’s visual arts committee. “We had the idea to work with Paul to create a poster that reflected 100 things about the JCC, but Palnik took that idea and just ran with it. He really brought the memories to life in this poster,” said Hara, who has a 20-year+ friendship with Palnik. “I couldn’t name a favorite [square]. They’re all so good.”
For members near and far, the poster will be a wonderful way to honor the 100 years of history and help keep the memories alive, Hara said. “This would also make a great gift for someone who has moved out of town—to help them relive their memories.”
For Palnik, creating the poster also helped him bring back his old memories of fun times he had at the old bowling alley, playing in the basketball leagues, or teaching art classes at the Center. Palnik reminisced, “The JCC was always there for me, always a place where we could go and meet with family and friends. It was just a part of our lives.”
Have you ordered yours yet? Contact Melanie Butter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-559-6233.