Less than 3o minutes driving distance and a world away. Bnei Brak. How often am I mad at the orthodox Jews infringing on what I feel is my right to live as I choose? Weekly (on a good week …). How often do I take the time to look at “their world” without judgment? I am ashamed to say this does not happen. This Hanukkah was an exception to the rule, and for a couple of hours we wondered through the poorest, and most populated city in Israel - Bnei Brak. The 8th night of Hanukkah and hundreds of Hanukkah menorahs lit the narrow streets. The traditional ones, with olive oil, not the convenient candles we use at home. Most menorahs are in a glass “house” - something I see for the first time. I walk on a main street in the very center of my country, and it feels as if I am on Mars. Shops for men only (have you ever seen a shop filled with black male shoes?). “Kosher” phones (no internet access), every street corner filled with donation boxes, our guide tells us that on Friday you can see packages left on street corners for needy people to take. The streets are dirty but on these streets, a mom can leave her toddler in a stroller unattended - without worrying. A sense of community I have not seen anywhere else. Walking through the winding alleys filled with people dressed in their own dress code, living by their own rules I am reminded of the words of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Hasidic Judaism (many of the Hasidim live in Bnei Brak) about us judging others, and what does it say about us. “ …should you look upon your fellow man and see a blemish, it is your own imperfection you are encountering - you are being shown what it is you must correct within yourself”. Worth keeping in mind next time I judge others. Maybe some of the Hanukkah light penetrated deeper this year ….
I try visiting a few art exhibits every month, usually I have a nice time and learn new things. Sometimes I am inspired. It is very seldom that art leaves me breathless. Last week was one of these times.
I heard about Frida Kahlo exhibition in Budapest from a friend 10 days before its closing. In an unusual spontaneous act, bought plane tickets, found a reasonable price hotel and five days later here I am, entering the exhibit in the National Gallery, Budapest. At the entrance, a larger than life photograph of Frida greets the visitors. Next to it a wall filled with historical photographs outlining her biographical timeline. I read the texts, moving along with the crowd who starts filling the room until I get to the end of the first room and literally stop breathing. On a narrow green wall, a single small-medium size painting. The broken column. I must have spent minutes in front of it, people went around me, moving on. I could not take my eyes of it. No photo will make it justice, but here is an iPhone image of the painting and the accompanying text.
I recently read about a Chinese teacher telling his student that “art does not have to be beautiful, it has to be honest”. I have never seen more honest art, raw pain painted on canvas in such an imaginative way. I came out of this exhibit changed. Something happened there, a surprising connection between Frida and me. To be continued….
I have a problem photographing strangers. I feel uncomfortable asking permission (I would not like strangers to photograph me …), and “stealing” an image without permission is a no-no. Treating others as ‘strange beings’ photographed like animals for a National Geographic features - also makes me cringe. So usually, when photographing on a trip, I stick to places and things. And yet, sometimes ….
September 2018, Greece. The mountainous part, small to tiny villages, some of them untouched by tourists yet. We are a small group travelling together for 10 days, sampling the tastes of rural Greece. It’s afternoon, we are on our way to the hotel, stopping for a short break at Kastoria, a village on the lake shore. We spend some time in an old house turned museum. Just next to the entrance, an older lady is knitting. She is just beautiful. Timeless. Untouched by the 5G antennas that no one knows how will they impact us, from the Supreme Court nominees. From the everyday noises that fill our lives. Every hour does seem to have 60 full minutes here, and she seems to make the best of each one of them. I want to take a picture of her, but there are 20 people with cameras around me, I am not going to turn her into a zoo animal. So I give up, and go into the house. When we come out of the museum, the knitting lady is not by herself, two other people joined her. They make such a beautiful picture. Temptation mounts. Our group starts walking down the alley. I stay behind. In a wordless pantomime, I ask them if I can take their picture. The woman nods, seems surprised by my question. I click the shutter then smile bowing my head, thanking them. “You don’t take a photograph. You ask quietly to borrow it.” So true.
In 2017 I started playing with Chemigrams. This was a natural part of a growing tendency toward abstraction coupled with an attraction to processes where the outcome can be directed but not controlled. Neither photographs nor drawings, Chemigrams inherit from both worlds. Created on black and white photographic paper, using traditional photographic chemicals, ingredients from the kitchen, art materials and light, the images are coerced into existence by painting, spraying and/or dipping the paper into the different solutions.
In 2018, as I started to prepare for a trip to Greece, I stumbled upon a lecture on Greek philosophy and encountered for the first time the notion of 'Apeiron' which resonated very strongly with the work I was doing in the studio. The result is my first Chemigram squence - 'Apeiron.'
Apeiron (ἄπειρον) is a Greek word meaning "(that which is) unlimited," "boundless," "infinite," or "indefinite." Anaximander, a 6th century BC Greek philosopher, believed the beginning or ultimate reality (arche) is eternal and infinite, or boundless (apeiron), subject to neither old age nor decay. As such, Apeiron can be understood as a sort of primal chaos out of which everything is created as well as the destination of everything once it ceases to exist. (Wikipedia, abbreviated)
See the complete 'Apeiron' sequence here
Today is not his birthday, or the day he passed away. Just a regular day on the calendar, almost sixteen years after his body left this world. And yet, without thinking much, I create this Chemigram. I miss you dad.
The very first image I created in the darkroom was a photogram (image created by placing objects directly on photographic paper - no camera involved). This was the winter semester at SMC (Santa Monica College) in 2016, and we spent the mornings, 3-4 days a week in the darkroom. I remember thinking I could play with photograms forever, but of course after one week we moved on and there was never time to go back and play. The second semester, in the advanced darkroom class I saw my first Lith print and it was love at first sight. The silent waiting for the image to emerge, watching the developer tray for 5, 10 minutes, sometimes more, not really knowing what will appear. The closest thing to magic I ever experienced.
When we returned to Israel, we improvised a home darkroom (my pedantic French professor from Photo 1 would kill me if he saw it ...). Part in the studio, part in the bathroom, moving between the rooms with prints in a light proof bag....unconventional - but it works. There was nothing preventing me from playing with photograms now ....but I didn't. Waiting for "interesting" ideas meant I was doing nothing. A few months ago I placed a few weeds collected on the morning walk in a set of 5 small glass bottle, and I remember thinking this may be nice to photograph. Yesterday, after finishing the initial Lith print tests of two new images, I grabbed the bottles and placed them under the enlarger. Why not try? And here it is, at long last, a Lith photogram. Unforced, unrestrained, unpredictable, unique. Reality as real as it gets, yet unrecognizable despite the fact we look at it daily. "The only journey is the one within" said Rilke long time ago, could this be the start of a new one for me?
Saturday morning. Tel Aviv Museum of Art. "Body, Work" an exhibition of Avraham Ofek's work. His last body of work - left me speechless. Despite the impossibility to capture its feel through the reflections in the glass, I still photographed them. Raw feelings in pencil, watercolor and gouache. Here is how the curator introduced this body of work:
There is nothing like a breath of fresh art on a boiling hot summer day. I heard the local gallery, the 'Gallery on the Cliff" has a great exhibit, and on Saturday morning, picked up my mom and went to explore. It's title, "Big eyes" does not translate well into English, it's an idiom that means "you want everything your eyes see". A contemporary art exhibition about food. Brilliantly curated by Dr. Guy Morag, a fun, thought provoking exhibition, the best combination there is.
From the floating "Gefilte fish" - a traditional Jewish food from eastern Europe to a critical view at the Seder dinner - the dinner on the first Passover night, from classic portraits to sculptures made out of sponge, video art of cooking Sabih ( a traditional Jeweish sandwitch) which references Pollack and poking a bit of fun at Leonardo, yes, Da Vinci with the Watermelon eaters. Every piece by itself and the exhibit as a whole is sharp, fun, refreshing. Even my mom enjoyed :)
Art inspired by a song. Another first - Archival pigment print with beads embroidery. This piece will be part of a coming exhibit at Universal Art gallery in Tel Aviv next month together with other art pieces inspired by Noam's beautiful songs.
The song that inspired it (my translation from Hebrew)
Dancing all by myself, lyrics by Noam Horev
I’ll be back soon, just passing through all the continents
Gathering feelings, sensations, blurred images
Far away, beyond the sea, places I’ve never been to
I see the world in new ways, ways I do not understand yet
Gathering pieces of the sky just because
The world rests in my hands
Learning how to caress the wounds
I suddenly remember, how to dance all by myself
In the empty spaces of the heart
Drawn to the fire, to the whispers within
Getting out, burning bright again
Taking the time to get ready, to connect, to grow up
To travel and never come back
Walking the newly discovered paths of the soul
Where I never dared to venture
How can I suddenly be so complete
Food for thought while listening to Miri Mesika singing this beautiful song.
"Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old". I love this quote. There is so much beauty around us, in the most unexpected places. Above the electricity lines, next to the garbage bin. In the monochromatic fashion designer studio as well as the overcrowded balcony next to the central bus station. A taste of Tel Aviv.
Life is beautiful.
Here, in Israel we have too many sad songs. One that is particularly touching goes something like that (my translation):
How should I bless the child? asks the angel.
I blessed him a smile brighter than light, seeing eyes and a feeling heart. Dancing feet and a soul to remember the tune. Hands to collect seashells and ears to listen to big and small
How should I bless the child? asked the angel. I gave him all I could. A smile, a song and feet to dance. A gentle hand, a thriving heart. What more can I bless him with
....and the song end with:
If only you blessed him with life.
Two days ago, 25 youngsters aged 17 to 18 were caught in the midst of a late spring flood in the Arava, the desert in the southern part of Israel. Salt of the earth, these youngsters were about to embark on an extra year of study after high school. Learning to be better people, better leaders, know their country and people better. Study and volunteer. This was supposed to be the trip when they get to know each other. For ten of them, nine girls and a boy - who died because he kept helping his friends instead of saving himself - it was the last trip. They were truly blessed with everything every parent could want for their child. They were bright, and loving, and best in their class, volunteering for years in organizations helping disabled children. They were blessed with beauty and a sense of humor and the biggest, gentlest hearts. If only they were blessed with life.
The last few months, I have been collaging camera-less Lumen prints (prints done on photographic paper using the sun) with digital images, trying to give voice to the connection I feel with the earth. To test the waters, I submitted one of these images ( "Of Earth and Sun" below) to a call for entry that asked for images "that hide a secret". The image was accepted, and is hanging now in a beautiful gallery perched on the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean sea.
Last Saturday, I spent few hours in the gallery, showing the art to visitors. One lady seemed to have a particular interesting way of interpreting the art pieces and after talking about a few of them, we stopped by "Of Earth and Sun" and I asked her what does she think it is about. "Well, this piece is not about logic or understanding" she said "it is about feeling and connecting." I could not hope for a better comment. Yes!!!
A church turned mosque, an underground water reservoir transformed into a mini lake. A Titian painting, a 1300 year old aqueduct, a market bursting with color, and ah, the warm smoothness of the best 'Mesabaha' in the country. The kind light of a beautiful February day, shines on the Muslim, the Christian and the Jewish buildings, on the old and the new that make the unique DNA of city of Ramle (Ramla in Arabic).
"Surely the day will come when color means nothing more than skin tone, when religion is seen uniquely as a way to speak one's soul, when birth places have the weight of a throw of the dice and all men are born free, when understanding breeds love and brotherhood....". Amen.
Maybe it's the influence of Wynn Bullock's amazing color abstractions, maybe these are lingering thoughts after yesterday's meeting were I was exposed to the reality of the asylum seekers in Israel. Anger, shame, determination, all bubbling inside. Something needs to be done. Unfotunately, this is real too.
No idea how it happened, but since the first time I saw graffiti art - I fell in love with it. it's filled with life, emotion, a truth that does not hide beneath layers of respectability, should's and politically correct statements. It's loud, kicking, vibrant, eclectic, surprising. No better place for it than the center of Israel's liofe - Tel Aviv. A city filled with a hodgepodge of architecture from Bauhaus to Modern skyscrapers, the home of millionaires and refugees, high end stores and traditional markets, Tel Aviv is an endless source of surprises. Last week, we went to see Kiryat HaMelacha, a neighborhood that used to house lots of small businesses and during the last years slowly changed into a thriving artist community, the forefront of the local contemporary art. Here is a taste of the local graffiti art that cover the industrial buildings that house more than 200 artist studios filled with all imaginable kinds of art.
Not a place for people looking for clean, immaculate streets, but what a treat for art lovers!
"Come, said the wind to the leaves one day,
Come o'er the meadows and we will play."
In a photography workshop yesterday, the lecturer said that what distinguishes photography from other visual arts is the necessity of light and the lack of total control over what will be in the image. The right words at the right time for me. The second month into playing with new ideas. Becoming an alchemist, a child and an explorer. "If I were a leaf"
Continuing to walk the path of history, ironically, a path that was here, in plain site all my life, and yet, I somehow managed to ignore it.
Last week, we spent a day walking through the remains of the Kingdom of Judea, the land where King David walked, where his descendants built palaces and fortifications. Where they wrote their version of the story, the version we now call "The Bible". For the first time I realize how much in common Archaeology and photography have. Both start with fragments of reality. Fragments that look so plain and dare I say boring, so easy to ignore. Yet when put together, a story comes to life. Maybe even a few stories, as the unknown is greater than the known, and our experience and imagination weaves the facts into different patterns. The interesting part (for me) is not what the eyes can see, but what the mind can conjure. An ancient Persian garden overlooking Jerusalem, a palace on the hill for all to see, pigeons purchased in order to bring as an offering at the Temple.
Yet, all our eyes can see, are fragments of stone...
Almost six weeks since I last posted. Not from lack of events, quite the opposite: too many to choose from. Reclaiming our house and recreating the garden, Critical Mass Top 50 happened as well as preparing for a group exhibit in Boston and the first exhibition here, in Israel.
Not enough quiet time to reconnect with the land, the place, me. Somewhere I read that 'Planting flowers means growing roots'. I am growing mine.
What's in an image? What do you see?
Roots. Are they edible? A harvest of sorts or overgrown weeds?
Hands. Presumably the gardener. Big hands. Is this a woman or a man? Is he/she proudly displaying the results of their labor?
While each viewer will create their own story, here is what this image means to me. We are back in Israel, reconnecting with our roots. for me, a big part of this is returning to the garden I left behind two years ago. It is heartbreaking to see it invaded by aggressive, out of control plants to the point where some think it should be scratched, the soil replaced (or worst yet, poisoned to kill all invaders) and start from scratch. Ten years of work down the drain. I refuse to accept, for now, while evaluating the options, I fight the invaders. I know it is too little too late, but I still spend a couple of hours the other day on my hand and knees, digging and trying to uproot the weeds. The garden was always "my place". My husband helps carry the compost, but other than that, he just takes pride in "his gardener wife". Yesterday, he saw me fighting what seemed to be small nice leaves that turned our to be connected to a carrot like root ten times their size. Without thinking, he picked up the fork and started digging. He digs, I pull. It's the eve of Yom Kippur, people dressed in white, going to the synagogue - we are wearing shorts, dirty and sweaty, fighting the weeds. When we were done, I asked him to wait, grabbed my camera with my favorite 50mm prime lens and took a few photographs of his hands holding the uprooted plants. To me, this image speaks volumes about what's below the surface, a portrait of our relationship.
"The purpose of art is washing the dust out of life", so when I am surrounded by dust, what else is there to do than play with tiny collages when I am too tired to do anything else? Capturing moments, rediscovering the Israeli light (flooding the house through the very dirty windows ...). The "serious" cameras are still packed safely protected from dust, the iPhone is with me all the time, so iPhone it is. I am seriously thinking of naming this set of collages "Someone should take my iPhone away" :). Before someone does take it away, here are some of the "artistic" results of the last two weeks since we returned to Israel, enjoy :)