July 10 - August 5, 2022
The Oriah Shviro Young Adults Center, HaNachshonim 31, Ariel
Curator: Ophra Shoshtari
In both Hebrew and English, the roots for the word “identity” mean “same.” When people define aspects of who they are -- their gender, social status, family status, political affiliations, nationality or race, etcetera -- they are declaring that they are the same as certain groups of people. So, the question “Who am I?” is actually “Which we am I part of?”
Sometimes, identity is determined for you, through your assigned gender, birthplace and skin color, with outside forces imposing an identity upon the individual, but much of it is fluid, and each person, in order to describe who they are to others, chooses their categories. But this can change over time, and people do not necessarily fit neatly into boxes. Each change in our identity can cause a crisis and/or a catharsis, as we switch allegiances to a different group or add another group to the list.
There are many ways in which aligning oneself as part of a group can be beneficial. Within the framework of Identity Politics, individuals can use their relationships to a group to help create systematic change that benefits them as individuals. The group can also become an individual’s community and provide access to information on how to navigate challenges that arise in relation to their identity. The different groups that make up a person’s identity can also conflict with one another, causing individuals to either give more weight to one aspect of their identity or to walk a thin line between two or more identities.
The artists in this exhibition all created works that dive deep into their identities and represent their relationships within certain groups and the difficulties that they encounter as part of those groups. Religion, immigration, and being a trauma survivor emerged as the works’ main themes. But these artists all contend with multiple, often conflicting, aspects of their identities; they could be grouped and regrouped in many ways.
These nine artists, Nadav Teitelbaum, Svika Altman, Efrat Dorel, Hana Libi Yaar, Shani Eldar, Kefaia Aiaite, Polina Bar Cohen, Chana Spitzer and Avi Talala, express their identities in their artworks and analyze which groups they feel part of. Through their works, we can glimpse the great variety of types of people in the world, empathize with an individual’s struggles and thus better understand and humanize the groups they align with.
We use groups to describe our identity in order to help others understand us and get to know us as unique multifaceted individuals. Though the groups and communities that become integral parts of a person may conflict, it is precisely those conflicts within the individual that create a space for dialogue among the different groups. People balancing multiple identities are exactly the people who can create change and promote tolerance, within both themselves and their communities.
May 1 - May 13, 2022
The Oriah Shviro Young Adults Center, HaNachshonim 31, Ariel
Curator: Ophra Shoshtari
In the book of Ecclesiastes, Kohelet the son of David searches for the meaning of life, to no avail. He repeatedly states that all is “Hevel”. But what does “Hevel” mean? Often, it is translated as “devoid of meaning” or “frivolity”’ but the word’s range is far greater; it means “breath”, “vapor”, “steam” -- but also “nonsense” and “absurdity”.
The first place in the Hebrew Bible that we encounter the word is as the name of Cain’s brother (the sons of Adam and Eve). Abel (Hevel) is murdered by Cain out of jealousy born from God’s preference for Abel’s sacrifice. This man is far from meaningless, but his death is the first in the Biblical narrative, and as such, Abel’s death is the first time we encounter the transient and fragile nature of life.
All the works in this exhibition relate to the word Hevel and explore its many meanings. Like Kohelet the son of David, each artist is searching for the significance of life and trying to understand the human experience.
Themes of life, death and rebirth surface in the works of Marc Provisor, Cindy Richard and Silvia Harati. The bridge between reality and fantasy, and issues of mental health, become apparent in the work of Hana Libi Yaar. The changing and difficult nature of love, human connection and relationships are the main subjects of the works of Inbal Lusky Erenfeld and Erica Weisz. Terry Hirsch touches on issues of freedom and its absence, as well as self-doubt and fear. Yocheved Frimer’s video-art piece broaches betrayal and destruction.
Together, these works encompass much of Kohelet’s journey. Kohelet concludes that only the service of God makes life meaningful. If not for the existence of an eternal higher power, all is meaningless and ephemeral to him. Some literary scholars postulate that Kohelet’s final sentences were written by someone else, because they are so different in style, whereas religious scholars contend that the whole book leads up to this conclusion.
Kohelet’s quest is not unique. As he says himself, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Each person must embark on their own journey, and search in the hardships and the joy of their experiences for what is meaningful to them. In the works of these artists, we are granted a glimpse into their introspection and an opportunity to reflect on our own paths.
A generation comes, a generation goes; the sun rises and sets and then does it again; the rivers flow to the sea but it is never full; the wind blows around and comes back again. And where does a single person fit in this seemingly endless repetition? What is one human being in the vast expanse of the universe? Perhaps it is the transient nature of our lives that makes them so beautiful and dear. Scarcity is value; our time is short and therefore precious.
If you see a photograph of a painting by the artist Chani Cohen Zada, you might be fooled into thinking the painting is a photograph and not a painting at all. But when a viewer approaches the works face to face, from close up, this illusion unravels, and the brush work becomes evident along with the emphasis on the interplay of light, shape and color, similar to the proto-impressionist paintings of Paul Cézanne.
Chani’s paintings are meticulously planned; she uses models, staging and numerous methodical sketches before she puts paint to canvas. While her paintings may seem to be straight forward portraits, landscapes and still lifes, every object is carefully selected and imbued with rich symbolism. Just like the works of the seventeenth century Dutch realist painters, every part of the painting has meaning, it is not real life as seen in a random moment but an essay about a specific subject Chani is exploring at that time.
Chani is a follower of the Yemima method. Yemima Avital (1929-1999) was a Kabbalist and psychoanalyst who developed a system for self-actualization and emotional management. Her method has a strong following in Israel. Yemima’s educational system uses both Jewish and Psychological texts and teachings to help her students better manage their emotions and become happier and more centered people.
Yemima believed it is a person’s duty to do “tikkun” (repairs), on their soul and one of the tenets of the Yemima method is “diyuk” or precision, meaning understanding the precise action to take in a given moment and looking at the bigger picture.
Chani’s paintings are a treatise on “tikkun” and “diyuk”. In her precise style, she takes in the important emotions from pivotal life events, arranges them on the canvas and makes space to contemplate and face each happening with a clear mind. For example, Chani’s paintings confront her position as daughter and mother, using a child sized rocking chair she was gifted by her mother when she was three years old to represent both her mother and Chani’s own journey as a mother. She painted this chair with the dress she wore to her son’s wedding hanging behind it, symbolizing the shift in her family and finding acceptance of that change. In this same painting is another symbol Chani often utilizes, which is a child’s rhinestone costume crown representing the artist’s inner child. Here is the push and pull of emotion and wisdom; the child who wishes to take center stage and the mother who knows she must take a back seat and let her son and his bride shine on their special day.
Chani also often implements deep Kabbalist symbols of the “k’li”(container) and “or” (light) in her works and uses them both to explore the painterly effects of light on surfaces and the Kabbalistic meanings of wisdom and desire.
For Yemima, part of separating oneself from your baggage in order to become a more whole person, is in writing and keeping journals. While Chani paints her actual Yemima journals and shares her Yemima inspired writings each week about the Torah portion along with an image of one of her paintings, the paintings themselves are also a kind of journal. Because Chani has developed this intricate iconography that is rooted in the Yemima method, when she paints, she creates a physical manifestation of her experiences and is then literally able to step back and contemplate her life. Just like the way the painting comes into sharper focus when the viewer stands back from it, so to Chani’s life experiences come into focus when she completes the painting and creates some distance from the raw emotions.
But Chani takes this a step further.
By sharing these paintings with the world, Chani not only cleanses her own soul but she positions herself as a teacher as well. Chani analyses her life, plans the painting, creates the piece, steps back and then invites others to learn from her conclusions. When a viewer comes to understand Chani’s paintings, they can then understand Chani as well as the “or” (wisdom) Chani has collected in her “k’li” (container) and use that to shed light on their own lives.
Orly Shalem’s abstract artworks dance in front of your eyes, and if you listen closely you can almost hear music. While some artists only approach a canvas after carefully sketching and planning, Orly turns on music to match her mood and lets the painting come through her like a prophecy. She does not know what she will paint until she is standing opposite the pigment-stained canvas and it feels to her complete. Because of this inspired process there is a mysticism and spirituality that Orly’s paintings impart.
Orly’s paintings have a gentle temperament that encase a frenetic energy. Some of her paintings waltz, prance and sway while other’s parry and thrust and none of them ever let your eyes rest. As a former graphic designer, Orly knows well how to use color to capture a viewer’s attention. She is also a master of texture. For Orly, the paintbrush is only one of many tools, she uses a palette knife and her hands and she sometimes pours and drips her paint, among other methods. Some of her surfaces are scratched or painted over in many layers incorporating an act of destruction into her creation. She inserts her whole body into the production of an artwork; she is an action painter.
Orly is influenced by many figures in art history; the idyllic Monet is one of her favorites but Turner, Rothko and Pollock and those artists’ dark and stormy energies are also evident. Even with Monet, Orly most relates to the later works when Monet was losing his eyesight and the paintings feel blurry. She connects to the abstraction but also to the degeneration of the aging man.
Orly gave up her graphic design business when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in her mid-forties. She was alerted to the disease only because a friend casually suggested she get an exam and by the time she saw the doctor her cancer was already so advanced that it required chemo, surgery and radiation. Though Orly always painted as a hobby, her brush with death gave her what felt like the permission to become a full-time artist. She recognized that the future is uncertain and it is imperative to act on your dreams and the hearts desires in the here and now. Turning to art also helped Orly deal with her physical and emotional pain, spilling onto her canvas all of the complex emotions she experienced as a result of her disease.
After Orly’s journey to recovery, she decided to devote the majority of her time to her art. She completed a degree with honors at Beit Berel College in Art Education. In the years following, she began teaching art to the elderly residents of the nursing home Palace Modi’in, making her artistic knowledge available to them and giving them access to the magic of creativity. This interaction also further deepened her connection to both the healing power of art and the fragility of human existence.
Orly never paints from real life, even her illustrative works are landscapes fabricated in her mind. Her works are purely emotional even when they seem representational. Painting turns her emotions into concrete material and then the viewer must translate them back to the emotional plane. The abstraction of emotion, mediated through paint, leaves room for the viewer to impress on the work their own life experiences.
Orly Shalem's works are on exhibition at the gallery "Hakol Ba'Misgeret" in Shilat (near Modi'in). The exhibition is open following the end of the country wide isolation until Passover 2021.
The artwork of Inbal Aaronfeld Lusky weaves a touching story about loss and rebirth, the fragility of family ties and importance of deepening roots as well as allowing oneself to blossom through hardship.
Inbal’s artistic story is a yarn that begins with thread. Her father owned a clothing factory in Haifa. When she went as a young girl to the factory, Inbal was enchanted by all the little threads on the floor. She scooped them up and arranged them, giving life to the discarded leftovers as their own creation. To the present day, the threads continue to interest her. In a meditative state, Inbal finds figures and landscapes in these little cast-off pieces of string. Inbal sees the value in what others ignore. Through these seemingly insignificant threads, she reaches to her childhood and also connects to her father.
Inbal’s parents are divorced and the theme of a broken family takes center stage in her stitched photographs. Through a longing to connect to relatives, who for the most part she never even met, Inbal takes out her needle and stitches on embellishments, inserting herself through this act, into the lives of those that came before her. This process of stitching is a therapeutic one that heals her and bring her closer to her ancestors. Instead of mending pants, she is mending her family ties.
Around the time the Coronavirus pandemic hit, Inbal herself went through a divorce. She was suddenly no longer able to teach art classes due to the social distancing restrictions. She looked out the door of her downsized new home, and saw the thorny thistles that look dead half the year and then suddenly bloom into beautiful flowers in spring. The thistle is an agent of destruction, it will prick a passerby and rip their clothing, but after the dry heat of the summer passes and the winter rains seep into the ground, it dots the landscape with colorful plumes. Inbal splits the canvas into three areas, like a foreground and background of a stage set. She plays with realism and abstraction, letting the ground come in and out of focus to the viewer. Depth of field is flattened and simplified. The thistle becomes a silhouette, the shadow of a memory of difficult times weathered. Inbal found in the thistle a kindred spirit. With all these big changes in her life, she was suddenly able to create as much as she wanted. In her new freedom to work on her art, Inbal realized that she was like the thistle, though it appears dried up and dead, it is just waiting for the right conditions to bloom.
In order to make a living, most artists teach or work in design or another profession within the realm of the artworld. Marc Provisor’s vocation entails preventing terrorism. But the security expert and artist are not split identities, each one of these parts of his life inform and enrich the other.
From the counter-terrorism perspective, the painter’s mind can see the full picture and come up with creative solutions to challenges presented in the security world. In his paintings, Marc processes his profound feelings of pain and anger that emanate from the experience of horrific violent events on both sides of the political divide, as well as an expression of his deep love for the land.
Marc developed a series of paintings that are very dark, raw and forceful to address the terror he has seen. Contrariwise he created a series of soft realistic landscapes. In the middle of both of these extremes, are landscapes that bubble over with emotion, infused with intense vibrant color that imbue a temperament into the rocks, hills and vegetation. This is Judea and Samaria filtered through the lens of Marc’s experiences. Gazing at these panoramas one is struck with either a boiling anger, a sensual magnetism or a cool depression. Many of these landscapes even have anthropomorphic elements. They are sculptural with a dense impression of volume, permeated by light that is often earie and chimerical. These allegorical vistas are not just informed by the landscapes Marc sees when he drives his 4x4 to make sure the villages in Judea and Samaria are secure but also the inner landscapes of his heart, mind and soul.