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Through These Hands

The Drexel University Judaica Collection by Renée Weiss Chase

Dedicated May 18, 2018

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Artist’s Statement

When I was given the opportunity to create artworks for the Perelman Center for Jewish Life at Drexel, I approached the project from the vantage point of a designer seeking to generate an integrated whole of meaning, fabrication, symbolism, and spirituality that would enhance the beautifully realized religious space. Beyond the thousands of images and details that drove the effort, a larger meta picture emerged that gave new meaning to the work.

As a first generation American and a second-generation Holocaust survivor, it is my belief that the collective familial sorrow that I internalized has found transcendence through this project. It is as if the creative response to loss has found a means, through my hands, to find hopefulness, spiritual expression, and undeterred optimism. The hand of G-d present in many of the works reflects a reaching towards us, his flock, to deliver perhaps the most important message of this project; that out of unthinkable tragedy is born new hopefulness, richness of spirit and connection among all who will ultimately pray in this space.

Drexel has offered a powerful foundation for my life and has afforded me an excellent education as well as an extraordinary career. My gratitude is expressed in this project through the incorporation of the triangle which represents training in art, science and industry. These words, translated into Hebrew, can be found in many of the twenty-six works.

About Renée Weiss Chase

Renée Weiss Chase’s career exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit, having worked as a small business owner, fashion designer, technology enthusiast and Program Director for Fashion Design at Drexel. 

After obtaining her Bachelor of Science Degree in Fashion Design from Drexel University, Chase launched the Renee Manufacturing Company, acting as both CEO and art director. From 1971 to 1981, she and 25 employees created a sportswear collection from sketch through production. The Renee label was sold in more than 200 department stores and boutiques and showcased in five major American cities. 

By the early 1980s, Chase obtained her master’s in Science and Technical Communication and joined the Philadelphia Bulletin as a fashion staff writer. She interviewed designers, reported on runway events and provided consumer advice. She became a full-time associate professor of design at Drexel circa 1985 and took over the leadership of the Fashion Design Program.

Before her retirement in 2017, Chase was a tenured professor at Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design. Drawing both on her own experiences and inspirations, she helped to set-forth two goals for the program: fashion as art and technology of fashion. Students cultivate an appreciation and mastery over craft and materials and gain experience using real-world technologies. Chase’s teaching earned her the highly coveted Lindback Award for Teaching Excellence.

Aside from teaching, Chase established her own design company, Cloth2Clay, where she creates fashion figures from clay. She has published and exhibited her sculpture widely. Her publications include Design Without Limits, CAD for Fashion Design and a contribution to Nine Heads, Computer Aided Design in Fashion. Juried and invitational shows include: NCECA, Wayne Center for the Arts, Gallery Blu, Harrisburg, Perkins Art Center, Moorestown, New Jersey, Smithsonian Craft Show, Washington, DC; International Invited Fashion Exhibition of Professors, Korean Society for Clothing Industry, Jaqueline Boyd Gallery, Brigantine, New Jersey, New Century Artists Gallery, Chelsea, New York, Gloucester County College, Ross Beitzel Gallery, Beauty Gallery and Ris Gallery.

Chase resides in Collingswood, New Jersey with her husband, Fred, a psychologist and her beloved dog, Nettie. She has two children, Danielle, a pediatric neuropsychologist ; and a son, Jesse, a user experience designer.