"Dusks" a solo exhibition of my work at Artspace Gallery in Jerusalem's German Colony continues. To book an appointment please contact: Phone: 972-546371100 or 972-2-5639567

Friday, July 11, 2014

Thousands of Arms to Hold You: Big Bambú at The Israel Museum

Knotting Joints of Big Bambú by Mike and Doug Starn © 2014 by Heddy Abramowitz

Little did the brothers Starn realize the auspicious timing of the installation of their massive outdoor sculpture when they agreed to bring their team and materials to the Israel Museum Art Garden.
For their work Big Bambú, an exploration of the place of the individual in a chaotic world, the timing simply could not have been more apt.
Art is never created in a vacuum, where it is seen and by whom it is seen is significant. Shortly following the opening of this bamboo construction here in Jerusalem, Israel was thrust into a national drama concerning the disappearance of three high school boys.
The names Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel quickly became seared into the public consciousness and for those days of uncertainty they brought together people from around the globe in unity with the parents; we collectively waited to hear the slam of a door like always, yet only quiet answered. Students returning home from school and being Jewish became a deadly combination at the hands of their captors.
From mass prayers at the Western Wall to lighting extra Shabbat candles, people around the world connected to the panic-inducing event that any parent, child, indeed anyone with a beating heart and a connection to humanity could relate. News junkies hung on every report until the quiet broke on day 18,  a number normally symbolizing life in Judaism. That was not their fate.

Tightening Knots on Big Bambú by Doug and Mike Starn, © 2014 by Heddy Abramowitz

A sense of connection stretched like an invisible cord around Israel and around the globe bringing together the hopes and prayers of a range of people, crossing lives of diverse paths, and binding them into a silent bond of strength.
The twin brothers, Mike and Doug Starn, could not have anticipated these events, yet similar concerns seem to be echoed in the current form of Big Bambú, called Five Thousand Arms to Hold You. Born in Absecon, New Jersey in 1961, they have been collaborating since their early teens. They defy pigeon-holing with the range of their interests spanning photography, nature, culture, religion, and human connection. Early works investigated nature in photography, which garnered their first public recognition at the 1987 Whitney Biennial.
In commemoration of 3,000 years of the city of Jerusalem, their work Ramparts Café at the Jewish Museum of New York, combined observations centered on Jerusalem coffee shop culture as a contemporary expression of the city. This was set against old documents from Judaism, Christianity and Islam to reflect upon religious conflicts.
In Big Bambú, they focus their attention on questions of chaos and order in nature, interconnection and interdependence between people. Comprised of thousands of bamboo canes, each individual component  can be seen as just another piece of a seemingly fragile construction. Or as part of something greater than itself.
Following 7 weeks of work by the artists and their crew of mountain climbers, they created a cohesive structure which seems to parry and lunge as if an invisible fencing match took place in the open Isamu Noguchi-designed Art Garden. This unusual configuration stands in sharp contrast amongst the more recognizable sculptural forms that are its neighbor; a white concrete Picasso sculpture appears static alongside seemingly untamed chaos.
Picasso and Robert Indiana's Ahava (Love) Flank Big Bambú by Mike and Doug Starn, © 2014 by Heddy Abramowitz

The installation was created as a dynamic unfolding organism, which looks like a giant game of pick-up sticks gone wild. It is meant to be explored from without in the traditional way, but also climbed on and experienced from within, enabling visitors to become participants and temporarily join with the work itself. The design tames the mass of canes into a purpose-filled structure with paths and nooks to explore.
Double Helix Rising on Big Bambú by Doug and Mike Starn, © 2014 by Heddy Abramowitz

This is more than a reach back to your inner child in the guise of a natural jungle gym. Living in a scary world, with terrorism all too easily invading our individual constructs of comfort zones, making order from chaos is something that speaks to many.
With a breath-takingly rapid descent into an evolving security confrontation as Hamas sends missiles to rain again on our southern (and not so southern) communities and with the IDF poised along Gaza as of this writing, our current crisis presents an even more vivid and dramatic backdrop against which this installation will be experienced.
The Starns surely want you to enjoy the climb and the pleasurable discoveries. They also want you  to direct your attention to the small details. The canes are all hand-tied together with colorful knots of cords. These many joints help us pause briefly to consider the ties that bind us, as individuals one to the other.
Reels of Cording for Big Bambú by Mike and Doug Starn, © 2014 by Heddy Abramowitz

In the name of full disclosure, I hold a part-time day job in the Israel Museum (and the thoughts expressed in this blog are mine and not that of the hand that feeds me). Walking passed the ongoing construction while coming and going, I found myself being won over by this work. I took the accompanying photos during the last stages of knotting. This is a piece that makes the most contemporary works around it suddenly look a bit more middle-aged, more staid, next to what feels to me as a 3D swirling mass of lines frantically slashing in space.
Anyone who has spent time in Israel during a national crisis, cannot fail to note the heightened sense of coming together, caring, an extra layer of connection which is palpable. The recent roller coaster of emotions of the passed several weeks - the three funerals for young Jewish boys, the funeral  of Muhammed Abu Khdeir,  Rachel Fraenkel's quiet eloquence, riots, continuous missiles, army responses, soldiers leaving civilian lives to report for duty, and the anticipation of the unknown still ahead - are the swirl of events that pull our emotions along with each news item.
The sense of unity that many felt for those 18 days and the acts of kindnesses large and small are part of what makes a People. Though the unity quickly seemed to evaporate into business as usual, the afterglow is still in our minds, and the current tensions are yet another  reminder that we are all ultimately bound one to the other. Simple acts of kindness between peoples also happen in times of calm, but it is during crises that we seem to have a heightened sense of awareness to see and do good.
Classic Sculpture and Rising Big Bambu by Mike and Doug Starn, © 2014 by Heddy Abramowitz

It is sad that such events bring us together. Sadder still that there is an ever-widening gulf between ourselves and our neighbors across the wadi.
These interconnections and feelings of interdependence underscore the experience of Big Bambú. Each step has a corresponding reverberation. We can understand this as a work meant to buoy us up, giving us the reassurance that there are thousands of arms to hold us.
This post was originally published on Times of Israel here or:

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Solo Exhibition Opening Invitation

Jerusalem City Center, Dusk 80cm x 90 cm oil on linen by Heddy Abramowitz


invites you to the opening
of the exhibit "Dusks" by


Thursday 29 May 2014
at 8:00 p.m.

5 Hazefira

The gallery will be open by appointment only until further notice.

גלריית ארטספייס
מזמינה אתכם ל-
פתיחת התערוכה "בין הערביים"
של יצירותיה של
הדי אברמוביץ

יום חמישי, 29 למאי 2014
בשעה 20:00
רחוב הצפירה 5

עד להודעה אחרת, תהיה הגלריה
פתוחה לפי תיאום מראש

Friday, April 11, 2014

Still, It's Life: New Works at Artspace Gallery

"Almond Buds in Finjan" 2014 oil on linen mounted on board 40 x 40 cm by Heddy Abramowitz
Spring has been in the air for weeks in Jerusalem – we get the first optimistic buds in early February and then bursts of almond trees blossoming all over. They enliven unexpected places like back lots in densely-built neighborhoods and otherwise mundane commutes, jarring our eyes with beauty so easily overlooked in the daily grind.

With a solo exhibition in transition at Artspace Gallery in the German Colony, I’d like to introduce a couple of the works. The exhibit will include cityscapes, portraits, self-portraits, landscape, a broad range of subject matter united though direct observation. I will discuss two of the still lifes.

Is Still Life really boring? The French refer to it as Nature Morte – dead nature – perhaps saying that the subject is bereft of life. Or is it more like the idea behind the Dutch term – stilleven –which suggests closeness to the act of living life?  To me, still life can be an exciting combination of the process of finding beauty in the mundane, weaving traditional concerns of color, light and composition with threads including something more.

At this time of year, clearing our homes of leavening for Passover, I have heightened awareness of the stuff of modern life, the objects we use and live amongst. Though observation may be at the heart of my still lifes, they can extend beyond relating the experience of seeing and become vested with personal meanings, symbols, associations and larger thoughts, sometimes approaching personal allegories, and occasionally social commentary. Of course, these are my own thoughts, a different viewer may never sense what I was thinking, and may bring their own reactions to the works.

In Almond Buds with Finjan, I combine very early glimmerings of spring with an unusual vase - an ordinary pot for brewing coffee known in local parlance as botzor mud. The buds first sprout while the weather is still prone to blustery days and offers the promise of approaching spring. ‘Mud’ combined with optimism create a dissonance that I feel is typical of life generally and life in Israel particularly. My jumble of thoughts run from the aroma of strong coffee through to early Zionist songs from kumzits days, winding to the innocent songs of gan (pre-school), jolting to the mud associated with wars and its despair and lurching to the mud of early spring and the pull of life as it continues the rhythm of natural renewal.  

This is one of a number of my works in which I do a twist on the classic still life subject of flowers in a vase – sometimes the vase is the oddity, sometimes what goes into the vase is the change, together they are a combination that is meant to jiggle thoughts beyond the first encounter of looking in itself. A dichotomy of meaning is what speaks to me in these still lifes.

It is hard to pin down where painting ideas come from. Years of looking – at paintings and at life around me – seems to have created an internal resource file that I pull from. I find that it can take a long time for a painting idea to coalesce, even years. And then it does.
The visual source that led to the related painting, Almond Blossoms in a Tea Cup, came from a number of Claude Monet’s paintings of a Japanese bridge in his Giverny gardens, a subject he revisited several times, examples of which can be seen at the Met in NY, the National Gallery in D.C., the National Gallery in London, and at the Orsay and Marmorttan Museums in Paris. The bridge in those works, an arc, stayed with me, percolating subconsciously until I knew I wanted to use it for this painting. A bridge safely traverses over something avoidable and this one has an elegance that I associate with the arched back of a dancer in space. It is the stretch of an extended body, the grace of a long line that I wanted to bring to this painting, which is comprised of three elements – a branch of freshly-sprouted almond blossoms, a glass of water and a table top.

"Almond Branch in a Tea Cup" 2014 oil on linen 90 x 35 cm by Heddy Abramowitz

Many painters have been inspired by flowering almond trees, Van Gogh comes to mind, and Bonnard’s haunting last work is essential to that theme. My engagement with local nature has included them - but those approaches related to the tree as the subject in nature. I wanted to reduce the gaze to the wonder of a single branch. 

Almond trees hearken to ancient times and are mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, where it is a symbol of watchfulness and promise felt by its early flowering.  This is as relevant today as ever.

The other elements bring me to more associations. Typically, still life paintings have the subject matter placed on a tabletop. Sometimes I think of the surface as more of an altar, a place to contemplate the uniqueness of the objects, a visual offering.  

In this painting, the tabletop is one that appears in many paintings and has a personal significance. When I moved to Israel long ago, the Jewish Agency gave new immigrants basic supplies to manage with until they could adjust to their new surroundings. This included some very practical items: simple pots, plates, cutlery and plaid acrylic blankets. 

Some things struck this spoiled westerner as quizzical – I had never before seen a p’tilia – a standing burner for cooking, great for appliance-less bare apartments in times of austerity. It has since become the vital tool for home- style restaurants of the amcha variety, a sort of culinary backlash to the pretensions of affluence.

Two stools. And a red-topped table with iron legs.  

That table joined us as marriage and life in Jerusalem began. Eventually it was re-purposed as my work surface where it has built up a patina of splatters, drips and spills, a silent witness to my life and work. 

Warhorse that it is, it has served as prop for many a painting. In this work, the red surface leans towards a deep burgundy, an association for me to the local earth. It is simultaneously both the fertile soil of gnarled grape vines developing into their maturity to become deeper, more complex wines; just as it bears the stains of battle in a war-torn land. 

The final element is a simple tea glass of water. In arid Israel, water is a high concern. In Judaism, it is part of daily prayers; Israeli weather reports include the level of the Sea of Galillee – how close are we to the red line?  Or, which red line? The upper red line or the really critical bottom red line?  (A part of the national character is the ability to distinguish run-of-the-mill normal crises from it’s already-too-late real emergencies). Water is inseparable from life.

From buds to blossoms, these paintings represent a return to living and hope for good things to come.

This post was originally published on Times of Israel here or

Artspace Gallery, by appointment only, contact:
Phone: 972-546371100 or 972-2-5639567,
e-mail: <>

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Purim Power: Silliness and Sickness

"Seminary Friends at the Jaffa Gate"

Joy, festivities, costumes, silliness and even drunkenness are all customarily associated with Purim. We give food gifts to friends and neighbors; we give charity to the poor. Yet, as life will have it, not all are in the mood or able to fully participate in this holiday which emphasizes over-the-top exuberance.
Those who are hospitalized and ill are not overlooked. Having a family member so situated last year brought me to Shaarei Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem even as Shushan Purim was at its height. Traveling from the Jewish Quarter to the hospital gave me a new perspective on the holiday, seen through the eyes of one preoccupied with health concerns.

"Family of Builders"
 The contrast between the world outside the hospital and inside the hospital was even starker than usual. The sheer party mood included some of my favorite aspects of the holiday, well-conceived couple’s costumes, family costumes and group friends’ costumes.
"Reindeer Couple"
"Local Flavor Couple"
Politics, of course does sneak into the day, with children dressing up as a different sector of society, with adults choosing their costume to make a statement.

"Soldier and Hasid Kids"

"Conflicted Views"
"Passengers And Revelers"

The light rail was filled with revelers inside the train and a veritable impromptu Purim parade was constant along the tracks.
"Shaarei Tzedek Hospital Elevator at Purim"

"Seminary Students Speaking with Doctor"
Inside the hospital we were tickled to see seminary girls and yeshiva guys going about cheering up the patients.

"Singing To Heal"
Sometimes even the portions of shalach manot (treats for giving to neighbors) were cleverly comprised to accommodate the patient’s dietary requirements while still bringing a smile.

"Purim Portion for the Sick"
Even a few celebs showed up, without their entourage or paparazzi.

"Marilyn Does Bikur Cholim (Visiting the Sick)"
When you think about it though, the laughter of Purim is at its best when directed towards the ailing. Is it not said that laughter is the best medicine?
A joyful Purim to all…
All photographs © 2014 by Heddy Abramowitz
A similar post was originally published as a featured blog on the Times of Israel here: