Jewish studies major juggles artistic pursuits
For most people, multitasking can be a real challenge, but for 24-year-old Mirra Kardonne, it’s all part of the fun.
The part-time University of Toronto Jewish studies student is currently pursuing several acting, music and visual arts projects during her quickly disappearing spare time.
“I kind of have many fingers in many different pies, artistically,” she said with a laugh.
Kardonne held her debut art show late last month. The exhibition, titled All Descriptions, took place at Toronto’s Studio Huddle and featured 11 of her mixed-media works, some of which are as large as 36 by 48 inches.
The paintings in the collection focus on an exploration of identity as it is expressed through the body.
“It’s definitely some of the biggest stuff and some of the most ambitious stuff I’ve ever created,” she said.
Although Kardonne’s first and deepest artistic love is the theatre, after selling a few paintings while studying Hebrew at Tel Aviv University two summers ago, she felt the draw to spend some more time on her visual artwork.
“With visual arts, I’ve always felt like I have to strike while the iron is hot – because it’s not always hot,” she said. Kardonne added that when she feels inspired, she can complete a painting in as little as one or two sessions. “Sometimes the juices are just flowing,” she said.
Kardonne said her debut show made her much more optimistic about the potential of her artwork, as about 50 people showed up to the catered event that featured two Gypsy-jazz guitarists, and four of the 11 paintings were sold by the end of the evening.
She also received some requests for commissioned paintings, something Kardonne is very eager to work on.
“I was really nervous. I’d never held an [event] like this before,” she said, adding that she was “really touched that people weren’t just happy for [her], but they seemed to be impressed.”
After the excitement of the exhibition wound down, Kardonne was busy with two major artistic endeavours, on top of several side projects.
She co-produced the April 22 CD release of a jazz recording, The Thing Is, on which her older sister, Tova, sings.
Kardonne is preparing for her first role in a Toronto Fringe Festival play, Honour Killings, written by Harvey Markowitz.
She is also set to appear in a live art show in early May, where she and another performer will create artworks in front of an audience, and she is part of an ongoing YouTube series.
Kardonne, whose father is a playwright, has studied theatre for 12 years, both at acting studios and with a private coach, and still considers it her strongest artistic passion.
But if her love for the theatre is genetic, so is her talent in painting – Kardonne’s grandfather was the American artist Joe Kardonne.
Coming from an artistic family has given Kardonne a push forward in her career.
“It’s been really nice to have my parents be like, ‘If you want to be an artist, be an artist – not a doctor,’” she said of her family’s support.
Family history and tradition feature quite strongly in Kardonne’s recent paintings. The largest work on display at her debut show was a portrait that was overlaid with her grandmother’s death notice, written in Hebrew. The painting, titled simply Death Notice, was the “most laborious” for her to create, but she felt it was important to include in the collection, especially in its original Hebrew.
“One of the things that is me is that I speak Hebrew and I’m a Jewish studies major,” she said, explaining that her Judaism is an important part of her identity.
Kardonne began to learn Hebrew when she was 20 and has studied it in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. She began her degree as a philosophy major, but readjusted her studies in order to take up the Hebrew language.
In 2010, Kardonne served as president of the U of T’s Jewish Studies Student Union for a semester, and she also recently spent time as an intern at the Koffler Centre of the Arts.
Between her studies and the myriad artistic projects and hobbies that eat up her time, Kardonne is finding herself performing a bit of a balancing act.
“I feel like I’m a mad juggler these days,” she said, laughing, “but I really thrive on being busy.”
Now, as she prepares to graduate this summer, she will have a bit more free time to achieve her artistic goals.
Kardonne said that her latest success with her All Descriptions show has left her very hopeful for a future in the arts, both performance and visual.
Kardonne’s wish is to keep juggling her talents and to develop them all as she goes along.
“My wildest dream in five years would be to sort of do the Renaissance-woman thing,” she said.