I will be participating in the Salon ha Cubia exhibit opening October 28, 2017, at 8 pm in Nayot in Jerusalem, as part of the city-wide Manofim project. Closing January 25, 2018. Hope to see you there. Invitation

Pleased to be participating in the exhibition HOME(less) at HUC-JIR Museum NY. Running through the end of June 2018. For details see post

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Here's How You Know Passover is Around the Corner

Wisteria in the Greek Colony

 You know that anxiety that comes from hosting a dinner party? Pre-Passover in Jerusalem, and for that matter all of Israel, is a bit like that, but its more like an entire country is over-the-top and the panic extends to almost every Jewish family. Participating in the Passover traditions, such as seder night, is in the upper 90’s percentage range amongst the Jewish population.

Crazy as it gets, there is plenty to appreciate. This photo essay is a look at the lead-in to the chag. A cacophony of chores, rituals, awareness, and nature combine to make a symphony of anticipation.

There is no question that spring is in the air. With apologies to those in more intemperate climes, Jerusalem is all buds-a-bursting glorious with everything flowering.

Is it wisteria, or are they lilacs? They leave one gawking at buildings to enjoy this all too brief early spring treasure.

Wisteria in Nachlaot

When the wisteria blooms.

And the aromas from the budding orange trees and other flowering fruit trees are a sensuous reminder to say the Nissan blessing.

Green New Almonds

When the almond trees go from blossoms to fuzzy soft-shelled green almonds.

Ritual Fringed Garments at the Laundromat
When the laundry is airing out tzitzit (ritual fringes) by the dozen.

 Cleaning Supplies Curbside

When the house-goods store is pushing cleaning supplies. And cookware as well.

Pasta Sale
When the pastas go on sale.

Free leavened foods for the taking
When you can’t even give away your extra flour products.

Not for Passover
When the Israeli Rabbinate makes sure you know this place is not making the switch for the week.

No Leavened Foods Allowed
When you can’t walk into a store, shop, home with your sandwich.

Mellow Yellows, Olive Greens
When the mustard grass turns a mellow yellow and the silvery olive trees dance between them.

Market Bag 2018 Collection

When the new 2018 collection of shuk-schlep bags arrives (almost as exciting as Fashion Week for the locals).

The Garlic Has Arrived
When the entire market is redolent of fresh garlic. Might not be spring new wines, but we get excited about different things.

Greens in Abstract
 When green beans and fresh scallions form abstract sprawlings in the bastot (stalls).

Carton Street Art
 When produce crates become live street art.

Matzot for Sale Everywhere
When matzot are available everywhere (not to be taken for granted out in the wider world).
Florists’ Wares

When the florists’ offerings bring spring right indoors.

Then it’s time to take your seat at the seder table.

Chag Passover Sameach to all who celebrate.

All images are © 2018 by Heddy Abramowitz
Previous blogs on my Passover ruminations can be found here, here, and here.

This post was originally published on Times of Israel here and

Monday, February 19, 2018

Wet and wild: Rita Mendes-Flohr at Agripas 12 Gallery

2017 pigment print on archival paper mounted on D-bond by Rita Mendes-Flohr (Photo: Doron Adar)

Rita Mendes-Flohr points her camera to Kambucha mushrooms in her solo exhibit Latent Image now on view at Agripas 12. Mendes-Flohr came to photography after exploring painting, drawing, and writing via her love of hiking in nature. Her medium of choice, as well as the amorphous subject of this exhibit, were latent and now take the spotlight at this venue.

Small independent art initiatives have been ‘mushrooming’ in the Jerusalem scene in recent years. One of the trail-blazers was the Agripas 12 Cooperative Gallery. While it is an off-the-beaten-track locale in the sense that is not widely known out of art circles, it is very much accessible, being in the city center.

Only in Jerusalem can the exhibit location jiggle so much history. Located on Agripas Street (recalling the Judean King by the same name, 41-44 CE) it connects the popular outdoor Machaneh Yehudah market (established in the late 1880’s) and King George Street (named for King George V during the British Mandate in 1924),  it was founded in 2004 as an artist-run co-op. As part of the historic courtyard-neighborhood Even Yisrael, founded in 1875, the surrounding lanes bear exploring as well.

The cooperative runs independent of public support and its roster of members has evolved from the original founders. This exhibit is Mendes-Flohr’s first as a new member and is curated by photographer Doron Adar.

She is showing a dozen images, some printed on transparent paper and displayed in light boxes (30 x 30 cm), others larger scaled works of pigment prints on archival paper mounted on D-bond (120 x 80 cm and 75 x 50 cm), as well as an installation of a low light table displaying glass jars of the live organisms (80 x 80 cm).

Mendes-Flohr is no stranger to the workings of small arts initiatives, being a co-founder with artist Nomi Tannhauser of the Antea Gallery established in 1994, a multi-cultural feminist art gallery, and served as its director and principal curator from 1998-2010. Living in Jerusalem since 1970, Mendes-Flohr was born in Curaꞔao (formerly The Netherlands Antilles), the Papiamento- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean island, to a family who descended from escapees of the Spanish Inquisition and was raised in its small but still active Sephardic Jewish community.

I have invited American-born Jerusalemite Barbara Gingold to be a guest-blogger and review the exhibit. Gingold is an editor, photojournalist, and garden designer, with long experience in art publications (her upcoming website and blog “Holy Rocks and Hollyhocks” is under construction).

Rita Mendes-Flohr:  Latent Images 

Still photography, in its basest form, is a matter of scale: three-dimensional bites of the seen world edited and reduced to two dimensions, irrevocably bounded by the four sides of a screen or a piece of paper and digested, relatively quickly, by the human eye and mind. Or the reverse: minute visual details of that world, enlarged to reveal that which is most often overlooked and/or underappreciated. The rest, the other intrinsic qualities of photography — color, form, content — constitute either a limited replica of reality or a manipulated version thereof, depending upon the skill and creativity of the photographer. 
Rita Mendes-Flohr, an intrepid hiker, became a photographer about ten years ago, in the course of her trekking. She has previously exhibited her exquisite photographs of vast spaces online: monumental, pristine landscapes, sculpted rock formations — magnificent sweeps of primal beauty. Whether crossing the sandy stretches of the Judean Desert or ascending the forbidding heights of the Anti-Atlas, she captures the majesty of nature, the mystery of Creation. Faithfully preserving their infinite glory in two dimensions, her sensitivity and skill also capture and transmit the ineffable spirit of these places, their grandeur and sensuousness. 
At the same time, Mendes-Flohr has focused her lens on the minutiae of the landscape— the scaly "skin" of a prickly pear cactus, the suggestive sensuality of a fading arum flower — often transmuting them into anthropomorphic innuendos.  "We limit eroticization to certain parts of the body," she declares. "I think it's much broader than that. I grew up feeling at one with the natural world. It's both life and death, and endlessly fascinating. All my art has the theme of death and eros." 

2017 pigment print on archival paper mounted on D-bond by Rita Mendes-Flohr (Photo: Doron Adar)
In Latent Image, her current exhibit at Agrippas 12 in Jerusalem, Mendes-Flohr indeed continues to explore life, death, and eros, but she's turned her photographic gaze to another scale altogether: the world contained within a jar on her kitchen table. No longer content with documentation of that which is already present in the physical world, her lifelong curiosity about nature pushed her to become an active player herself in the very act of creation. Like a scientist with her Petri dish, she grew the Kambucha mushroom — commonly cultivated in the East as a health potion — in her kitchen.  The "starter," the fungal spores she got more than a decade ago from a chemist friend, had been left in jars in her garden for years, apparently moribund, until she began experimenting with macro lenses. The watery, embryonic world these lenses revealed somehow reminded her of the Kambuchas, and in the darkroom of her mind she envisioned the long-dormant mushrooms, resuscitated. With an infusion of tea and sugar, they came back to life. The glass jars, now filled with slimy fungal membranes floating in a brew of bacteria and yeast, inspired a new series of photographs, with Mendes-Flohr's macro lens peering into their murky depths. 
"If you just look superficially at something with the naked eye," she explains, "you don't see what the camera can see with a long exposure, even in the dark. Things that aren't visible, but they're there. Latent images. It's magical, like witchcraft or an alchemist's experiments."  
Lit by natural light or a cool LED lamp set beneath their containers, Mendes-Flohr’s Kambuchas grow, swirl, weave gauzy wet webs and veils of layered color beneath her camera. “These things evoke something primal,” she notes, “beyond our usual definitions of the erotic.” The photographs that emerged, almost literally, from these jars (which are also beautifully displayed in the gallery) are greatly enlarged, their colors unabashedly enhanced by the digital alchemy of Photoshop.
Though somewhat reminiscent of Roman Vishniac‘s renowned color prints of microorganisms and biological phenomena, facilitated by his innovative use of polarized light and high magnification in the pre-digital age, Mendes-Flohr’s photographs achieve another quality altogether. Unlike Vishniac the scientist, Mendes-Flohr the artist seeks abstraction and ambiguity.
These works, counterpointed by the very real and unaesthetic Kambuchas set among them, indeed evoke intimate, at points disturbing manifestations of human and non-human physicality. Sometimes awe-inspiring, sometimes almost threatening, the intentionally delicate shades and indeterminate shapes of these “latent images” — large-scale pictures of very small-scale natural events — draw the viewer into the enigma, sensuality, and otherworldliness Rita Mendes-Flohr finds hidden in — simply put — a jar of mushrooms. These images straddle the fine line between reality and imagination, challenging us to share the photographer’s flight into the beyond.
—Barbara Gingold, Jerusalem

view of Mendes-Flohr light table and Kombuchas, Agripas Gallery (photo: Doron Adar)
Closing: Shabbat 24.2.18
Mon-Thurs: 4:30pm-7:30pm,Fri and Sat: 11am-2 pm.
Agripas 12 Gallery
12 Agripas Street, Jerusalem, 94301
(Entrance is from the inner courtyard)
Tel.: +972-(0)77-5404897,

This was originally published on Times of Israel here or

Thursday, January 25, 2018

102-year-old artist Tova Berlinski ahead of the curve

Tulip circa the 90s oil on canvas 140 x 83 cm by Tova Berlinski

Much like a fine wine, Tova Berlinski kept getting better. Too good to ignore, she received recognition at the peak of her productive years. The art world trends have now caught up, recognizing the accomplishments Older Women Artists.

It is the rare Jerusalem art exhibit which gets covered by the New York Times. In this case, the art of Tova Berlinski at Artspace Gallery in the German Colony garnered that attention due to her remarkable artwork paired with her remarkable life. Artspace Gallery has extended the exhibit and now is showing the second part of selected works by centenarian Berlinski.

Born in 1915 in the Polish town where the infamous Auschwitz death camp was later built, she married in 1938, the couple soon moved clandestinely to British Mandate Palestine,  she lost nearly all her family to the Nazi extermination machine, and she cheated Hitler by living 102 ripe years full of purpose and productivity, and still going.

Tree in Two Parts 1990 oil on canvas, diptych, each panel 140 x 80 cm by Tova Berlinski

Her art gained recognition: she showed in many top gallery exhibits in Israel and abroad, was awarded the Jerusalem Prize in 1963, had a solo exhibition at the Israel Museum in 1995, and was honored with the Ish Shalom Award for lifetime achievement in 2000. Much of this was accomplished during years when recognition of women in the arts was unusual.

In an appreciation for Part One of the exhibit, artist and art reviewer Anne Sassoon wrote:
Berlinski’s paintings have a youthful quality that she has never lost – a fresh, open outlook and lack of artifice. Her delight in making these works is visible, and communicates itself to the viewer. You can see it in the light brushstrokes that seem to search out the forms that she creates: a handwriting of small gestures that can build up something huge. And because of the bare canvas left between the separate brushstrokes, these big forms – whether a row of cypress trees, a landscape, or the larger than life-size figure of a man – are never heavy, but seem to be made up of air and light.
The works in the second phase of the exhibit are no less captivating. Gallery owner, poet Linda Zisquit, relates that when visiting Berlinski, she found the matching half of Tree in Two Parts in a neighboring room, restoring the work to the artist's intention.

Self-Portrait, 2002, oil on canvas, 91 x 106 (including artist's frame) by Tova Berlinski

Berlinski's works feel gutsy and full of verve. Darkness comes and goes, her own self-portrait reveals the emotional bleakness that one could imagine comes from within, sometimes it extends to her black flower paintings, a unique take on an otherwise sweet subject in the hands of others.

This exhibit comes well-timed. It coincides with the crest of a new wave in art circles elsewhere: older women are getting their due. The trend was acknowledged by Berlin-based writer and art advisor Marta Gnyp, when she spoke last April at the Annual Art Historian Conference at the University of Loughborough, England. Citing a number of elements which converge to drive this new surge, Gnyp mentions:
1) the “…market’s big appetite for new, whereby new doesn’t necessary mean young. Collectors, who are the driving force in the current art market, are permanently in search of new artists who will fulfill their expectations of expectations of artistic creativity, deliver high-quality works, and, preferably, gain importance in the history of art. At the same time, they often seek artists who promise growth not only in terms of artistic value but also in price.”
2)  “…the story of vindication…. These women were previously unrecognized by an art system favoring men...
Rectifying the inequality and injustice in art history has become a beloved element in museum exhibitions…”
3) ”…their personal and emotional narratives. The narratives appeal to the public imagination and help in constructing the artistic identity of the given artist, which is so essential in order to sell in today’s market.... Also…they represent the classic model of art as a calling.... Their life stories are not only romantic and heroic; they also confirm the miracle of art, casting the art world as a place where the impossible can happen and where the reward for hard work can be earned against all odds. Older women artists are the art world’s Cinderellas, preserving its magic and allure.”
Historically, women who could study art and prioritize their creative aspirations were often the daughters or wives of artists, or they turned to convents where they could devote themselves to creativity. Women’s art ambitions typically took a backseat to other pursuits, such as child-rearing, supporting the family, or their productivity followed a different arc with starts and stops around the needs and life cycles of others.

Some women passed on the option of children, for it was considered vital by the art world to be singularly dedicated to one’s art. Men were less encumbered in this way by nature, and male gatekeepers, perhaps, invented this requirement. Some women artists would accommodate to this ideal, others would hide their private lives. Others had late starts, perpetually playing catch-up to fill the gaps from the early years, neither encouraged nor regarded seriously, they remained on the periphery.

Linda Nochlin, the recently deceased art historian, provocatively asked in her landmark 1971 essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” and in so doing, effectively changed the art world with that question. We are, perhaps, just now seeing the slow response coming to galleries and museums as they acknowledge oversights.

The glass slipper finally fits the swollen veined feet of these women of advanced age. At last, invited to the ball, these older women who slogged doggedly, are the art world’s new darlings.

Journalist Anna Louie Sussman of Artsy agrees with Gnyp, saying:
As institutions attempt to revise the art-historical canon, passionate dealers and curators see years of promotion come to fruition, and blue-chip galleries search for new artists to represent among those initially overlooked, prices and institutional recognition for artists such as Carol RamaIrma BlankGeta Brătescu, and Herrera have soared…. Given the undeniable high quality of these women’s work, why has it been overlooked for so long? Part of the answer—as in many other parts of the labor market and society at large—is simple sexism. Men have long dominated many facets of the art world, from galleries to museums to criticism.
She continues, noting that vice-president of Galerie Lelong, Mary Sabbatino, finds a ‘silver lining’ for the silver-haired in this discrimination:
Still, those years of relative obscurity often became a source of strength, says Sabbatino, allowing these women artists to hone their vision and sense of self-worth as they continued to produce work without the need for accolades.
Saying this like it’s a good thing, Sabbatino uncannily echoes the satirical rant of the Guerilla Girls, the feminist artist-activists, in their 1988 poster, listing “The Advantages Of Being A Woman Artist” (number one: “Working without the pressures of success.”)

The slow-moving art institutions are starting to respond with art opportunities only for the previously-invisible oldies here, here and HuffPost keeps up with an eye out for the new “hotties” here.

The battle is far from over. If, in the office workplace there is a gender gap in salaries in the range or 15-20%, what does one say to a 47.6% difference in prices for works by women artists at auction? Lest one claim it is a difference in reputation or quality, recent research points to a different reason: the perception of maleness itself accounts for higher prices for even invented art.

While Tova Berlinski is far from the stratosphere of prices for international women artists, she is a solid painter whose productive years are drawing to a close and whose accomplishments are ripe for attention. As a childless widow, her still modest art sales bring sustenance, both material and emotional.

Tova Berlinski and Self-portrait at Artspace © 2017 by Heddy Abramowitz

Whatever dynamic is propelling the art world to slide back the designer sunglasses and take a good look at their art, it is gratifying when it happens still within the lives of these women, if barely.

Gratification delayed is still sweet.

This blogpost was originally published on Times of Israel here or

Tova Berlinski, A Tribute Exhibit Part 2
Artspace Gallery,
HaTsfira St. 5, Gallery:
Closing 19.2.2018, by appointment only.
All images of paintings are courtesy of Artspace Gallery

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Gallery Talk at Kol HaOt Invitation

Invitation to Kol HaOt Gallery Talk

Hope to see you at my  upcoming Gallery Talk. I will be discussing new work created during my month as Artist-in-Residence at Kol HaOt. Please note the time is 8 pm and not as previously posted. 

A separation from my Nachlaot studio in Jerusalem a mere 20 minutes away, using the beautiful  space  at the Kol HaOt gallery made it possible for me to switch mental gears and create works that had been percolating for a long time. The great northern-facing picture window and large walls also helped me see the works together as one led to the other. 

I granted myself the mental space alongside the physical space to explore personal topics of loss and commemoration. Interacting with the public and taking advantage of the opportunity to learn in hevruta (studying Jewish text in a pair) with Director Alyssa Moss-Rabinowitz all combined for a particularly fruitful time. 

Looking forward to sharing my process and new paintings and drawings with you.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Invitation to Salon ha Cubia

I am pleased to be participating in the second biannual Salon ha Cubia. There will be 80 artists exhibiting from all over Israel showing paintings hung in the cheek by jowl Academy style. The works are not identified with labels, so less experienced and senior artists are hung together in a range of styles and subject matter.

Opening on Saturday night October 28, 2017 at 8 pm as part of the Manofim project, which opens the art season for 2017-18. Continuing through January 25, 2018.
Looking forward to seeing you there.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A 102 Years Young: Tova Berlinski at Artspace Gallery

Tova Berlinski, courtesy of Artspace Gallery

Jerusalem's art scene at Sukkot is running on steroids; there is so much going on at the same time. The Jerusalem Biennale is gearing up with rolling openings almost daily, the Manofim Festival is ready to take off. Every artist group and gallery has a special event during this festival when so many Israelis take off for vacation abroad just as so many visitors fill up the hotels and the otherwise vacant pied-à-terre apartments city-wide.

In this context, I've invited accomplished painter/artist Anne Sassoon to offer her viewpoint on Tova Berlinski, one of the generation who straddled the Second World War and Israel's founding and was in the circle of post-Independence Israeli artists. A rare woman in Israel's early art scene to have gained recognition, she was a teacher of  generations, a winner of the Jerusalem Prize, awarded the Ish Shalom Prize for lifetime achievement, her work has spanned decades and a world of changes in Jerusalem.

A tribute exhibit in honor of Berlinski's 102-nd birthday starts on Friday, October 13 at Linda Zisquit's Artspace Gallery in Jerusalem, a not-to-be-missed opportunity to know the work of this special artist. On a personal note, in my early years in Israel, her solo exhibit of black flowers at the Israel Museum left an indelible impression on me.

The gallery itself has recently been renewed and for fans of this special space it will be interesting to see the changes.

Tova Berlinski, courtesy of Artspace Gallery
From guest blogger Anne Sasoon:

It is deeply moving to walk into the exhibition of Tova Berlinski, Jerusalem’s iconic 102 year-old artist, at Artspace Gallery, and see how her vision and style developed during a wonderfully long lifetime of painting. This mini-retrospective shows that light and movement have always been Berlinski’s real subject, starting with the colorful abstractions of the 1960s, and leading through works which carry emotional content – like ‘Leaving Yamit’, portraits of her family (all, except for one sister, died in Auschwitz), and the two empty chairs painted after the loss of her husband.

But it is in the much later Black Flower paintings - some of them so dark that at first you can hardly make them out - that the importance of light and movement for Berlinski really shows itself.  In these works she hones in on plants as if putting them under a magnifying glass to explore the way they grow; and the light that glimmers around the edges of the writhing leaves, or glows in the quieter background areas, reveals the image like the light in an x-ray. These dark paintings have minimal colour but they are not as simply black and grey as they first appear, and the subtle browns and blues seem even richer for their rareness, a good example of how less can be more.

Berlinski’s paintings have a youthful quality that she has never lost – a fresh, open outlook and lack of artifice. Her delight in making these works is visible, and communicates itself to the viewer. You can see it in the light brushstrokes that seem to search out the forms that she creates: a handwriting of small gestures that can build up something huge. And because of the bare canvas left between the separate brushstrokes, these big forms – whether a row of cypress trees, a landscape, or the larger than life-size figure of a man – are never heavy, but seem to be made up of air and light.  This is not to minimize the strength and forcefulness of Berlinski, who can turn even the close-up of a pansy into a monumental presence.

A good selection of Berlinski’s best work is to be seen in this show. It’s the first exhibition to be shown in Linda Zisquit’s refurbished gallery, an acknowledgment of a long friendship and mutual respect. The artist will be present at the opening on Friday between 12 and 1pm. 
- Anne Sassoon
Tova Berlinski, courtesy of Artspace Gallery

Friday October 1310-2pm
Saturday October 148-10pm
Sunday October 155-10pm

Gallery: +972-2-5662423
5 Hazefira, Jerusalem

Friday, September 29, 2017

Graffiti Your Yom Kippur

"God is Watching" © 2017 Heddy Abramowitz

Jerusalem walls don't leave you alone. They are in your face, much like this city.

It is a self-selecting communication.

There is a passive conversation between strangers, the graffiti writers and artists and the random observers out in public, some paying attention, some just oblivious. Like religious belief itself.

For those tuned in they are purported to be on the same wavelength, for others, the reception on the weaker ends of the range is spotty, breaking up at times. For others, they are tuned into a different station or even staying off the radio or internet. Not present.

This message written on the fence surrounding yet another new building site in the Rehavia neighborhood of Jerusalem lets us know that even when we feel ourselves in control of the dial, the mouse, or the remote (shlatter in our familyspeak), we are a secondary actor, and there is something bigger than ourselves, whether in our acknowledgement or not.

With this in mind, Yom Kippur, Judaism's holiest day of the calendar year, comes in a few hours here in Jerusalem. It is referred to as the Shabbat of Shabbatot - the greatest of all the sabbath days. This is believed to be the Judgement Day when God determines and finalizes the fates of us all for the coming year.

Those who observe spend the day fasting, in prayer and in self-reflection. Others enjoy the carless streets and the pleasure of bike-riding, skate-boarding and hoverboarding on the only carless day of the year.

Why carless in a largely secular country? Because even the secular refrain from driving on such a holy day. This in itself is an act of identity. Even if your relationship to this day is national Bike Day somewhere in that tag is the understanding that it is a special day and set apart.

As part of prayer, Jews focus on repentance and giving charity as ways to redeem a harsh judgement as God seals our individual fates.

It is common to find charity boxes built into the walls of older Jerusalem neighborhoods - your pocket change can find many opportunities to help out the needy as you do your daily errands.

"Charity Saves from Death" © 2017 Heddy Abramowitz

And in case you miss the point, many boxes spell the deal right out: Charity Saves from Death, Charity is a Deposit Against Death. Others use a more upbeat message: For Blessings, Luck, Health and  similar positive encouragement.

Another custom is Kapara (Redemption) to symbolically give a life for a life - buying a chicken with a charitable donation and using it to make the pre-fast meal or donating to a poor family's meal. More commonly people use money as an alternative to "buy" their soul's redemption with the intent to use it for charity. The pre-holiday markets with chickens giving their all to redeem a person's soul are rapidly disappearing in the more animal rights-conscious world we live in.

"Kapara Chickens" © 2017 Heddy Abramowitz

"Redeeming a Soul" © 2017 Heddy Abramowitz

For those who wear a uniform and serve in the Israeli army, this symbolic redemption carries more immediacy.

"Soldier's Redemption" © 2017 Heddy Abramowitz
With hope that the introspection which comes with this day will bring a good result to all.