Artists often have a dual relationship with the space around them- both inspired by the surroundings, and becoming a part of the public space. Over the years, I have created public works and murals to mark special projects, occasions, anniversaries and themes in both Israel and the US.
I was an undergraduate Art student at Bezalel when the Jerusalem municipality began commissioning young artists to create public works that would become part of the city—whether for special occasions, or permanently. For Israel’s Jubilee year, I painted a widescale panoramic mural depicting the country’s journey to independence for permanent display in an open-air museum in Jerusalem. Later I would be invited to paint for public spaces and institutions in the US as well, physically and symbolically linking my Israeli art with the Jewish Diaspora.
Full Artist Statement:
Artists often have a dual relationship with the space around them- both inspired by the surroundings, and becoming a part of the public space.
I was an undergraduate Art student at Bezalel when the Jerusalem municipality began commissioning young artists to create public works that would become part of the city—whether for special occasions, or permanently. Later I would be invited to paint for public spaces and institutions in the US as well, physically and symbolically linking my Israeli art with the Jewish Diaspora.
In 1976, I was commissioned to paint one of four panels of the public Sukkah erected in Jerusalem’s newly-inaugurated Liberty Bell Park to serve Jerusalemites during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. I created my panel with motifs connoting the holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
In 1978, Jerusalem began an urban renovation of its historic Zion Square. As part of the massive construction, I was invited to create an art work to cover the front of five-story building in the landmark downtown center. The project coincided with Israel’s 30th anniversary and I chose motifs from the Israeli flag for the huge painting. Such lengths of canvas were not affordable in those days. I painted on massive sheets of packaging cardboard covered with burlap instead.
In 1998, I was commissioned by the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) to honor Israel’s 50th anniversary. I painted a massive 6 X 20-foot-long panorama depicting Israel’s battle for independence. The oil-on-canvas mural, titled Against the Odds, traveled between US exhibits throughout the Jubilee year before returning for permanent exhibit at the Ammunition Hill museum in my native Jerusalem.
In 1999, I was commissioned to create artwork honoring women for the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism. I painted a 12-panel series titled Women of the Zodiac, with each 48 x 36-inch-panel featuring a prominent biblical or Talmudic woman, with her unique character, and a fruit growing in the Land of Israel that time of year. I created two additional panels—one featuring Eve, mother of all human life, and the other depicting the four biblical matriarchs, gathered around a spring symbolizing fertility and life. The 14 oil-on-canvas panels were transported from Israel one at a time and assembled to form one massive mural housed in the Kripke tower of the Conservative Movement’s building in New York City.
The same year, I was commissioned by the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York to create artwork for the area outside their library. The physical space, a stairwell ascending to the library, inspired me to paint the Gathering at Mount Sinai, depicting the multiple ascents of Moses to receive the written word. The work is a 12 x 12-foot mural, comprised of 13 separate oil-on-canvas panels. The central painting depicts Mount Sinai. Featured around it, in a circle representing the cyclical movement of faith and doubt, and good and evil, are the Ten Commandments, the 10 plagues, and the 10 slain rabbis martyred under Roman rule. It would be this work that sparked in me the rekindled interest in the written word of the bible that propelled me to illuminate the Pentateuch in its entirety.
In 2000, I was invited by the Young Israel Synagogue in Boston to create a work of art to welcome the many foreign students and visiting scholars to have a home-away-from-home in the warm community during their stays. The motif inspired me to paint Welcoming the Stranger, an oil-on-canvas painting depicting Abraham receiving the angels.
In 2007, I was approached by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), to create a work of art for the lobby of the organization’s main headquarters in Washington DC. To reflect the strong bond and deep relations between the two nations, I intertwined design elements from both flags. This oil-on-canvas mural reflected the experimentation with the highly-detailed ornamental painting that characterize my illustrated Scroll of Esther.
All the above were created in Israel, some becoming part of the urban landscape of Jerusalem, others becoming permanently affixed in the US, interconnecting the Israeli and Jewish that are the two sides of one coin.
Creating art for the public or institutional sphere both commands and enables work on a different scale. Each medium or setting has different constraints and opportunity: a scroll allows tremendous length, and a book contains hundreds of images that would take vast space to display. A mural allows a unique assembly of paintings that form an entire tapestry and make a large public statement that is not possible on a museum wall.
This group of works is somewhat unique in two ways, being commissioned in advance, and being located in the public sphere. But neither factor ever dictates creativity and art, and like any other work, these paintings were the result of careful, thorough research.
While working on each one of these murals, I continued creating my ongoing artistic projects. At times, the personal art influenced the public works; other times, the other way around. But at all times, the two avenues were related, mutually inspiring, cross-pollenating, always interconnected.
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