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

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Artist Statement for A Fine Line Exhibit in the Jerusalem Biennale 2015

Street Wise, digital prints 2012 ©2015 by Heddy Abramowitz

  חוכמת רחוב 

Street photography, I feel, gives a true-to-the-moment picture of the preoccupations of its residents. Graffiti, all the more so – we absorb these markings as the backdrop of city life.
The eye of a photographer must select a focus, blocking out all else. A photographer’s role is like that of a landscape painter – both must select what goes into the frame or format. The amount of information hurtling towards a street photographer can be overwhelming. What interests me? The tall buildings and the city skyline? Or this one piece of Hebrew writing on a neglected city wall?

For me, a transplanted American, seeing Hebrew graffiti is something of a wonder. My preconceptions of Jerusalem were of rolling pastoral hills and not what I really found when I arrived, a city with buildings from yesteryear trying to primp themselves to keep up with the times with a bit of rouge and too bright lipstick. I try and break some of the conventions of Jerusalem as I seek subject matter reflecting the working city of today with an undercurrent of its deep history.

These quickly spray-painted images from templates or scrawled by hand, speak to the most central understanding of civil interaction between people – Derech Eretz Kadma l’Torah. Regardless of the issue of the day, the unknown writer declares that common human decency, derech eretz, precedes Torah. 

This message was spray-painted up and down Jaffa Road from the Davidka Square to Machaneh Yehuda in 2012. As in ancient times, this is a main commercial artery of Jerusalem. The writer brought this message from rabbinic teachings straight into the heart of daily life. 

As with much of what is directly in front of us, this statement could easily be overlooked, yet is at the essence of our social contract. Before getting into the fine-tuning of climbing the spiritual ladder through Torah learning, first we need to be good people one to the other. Or, as I heard growing up, sei a mensch, be a human being. Without that, there is no common starting point.

Here I have contrasted this message with different contexts, each further expands it. Seeing it against a photograph of a billboard commemorating the founders of a school in downtown Jerusalem from a hundred years ago, both school and the generations long gone, helps illustrate its timelessness. 

In a second juxtaposition, the young girl walking along past portraits of people from all walks of life – she neither notices them nor they her. We look directly into their eyes, and again ask, what binds us one to another but human decency?

The next pair of photographs, show the same slogan enlarged on a wall, with the added line – "If there is no Torah, there can be no derech eretz (human decency)." Is this a philosophical question of the chicken or the egg variety? One senses that this message includes a veiled warning, don’t encroach on priorities. The graffiti style mimics a cartoon face but the messages, seemingly one in reaction to the other, are serious.

The dynamic life of the slogan continues in the fourth photograph, where the most recent addition to the wall is done in fire engine red: "Warning: Live Fire Zone." This phrase coming from the military is placed in the middle of the wall conversation. It adds a sense of urgency, it adds a layer of military lingo to rabbinic phrases, it adds the blatant admonition that this is shaky and unstable ground, and could be explosive.

It is in these small, private declarations that an individual can reach out to a stranger and perhaps strike a chord, for the briefest of moments, that may garner a reaction; perhaps causing a little jiggle in their outlook.  Like flowers with a short life, graffiti blossoms on unobtrusive walls quickly and, in the dynamics of city life, fades, gets painted, or covered by a poster. I record these markings to document the social pulse of earthly Jerusalem.

A Fine Line 
curated by Dr. Susan N. Fraiman
45 Emek Refaim St. 
Achim Hasid Complex
Sept 26 - Nov 5

I am exhibiting in another exhibit at the same venue.
A Sense of  Space, A Sense of Place
Curated by Mallory Serebrin
web page here and  (more to come after the opening).
To hear an interview and a statement on the Crossroads works see here.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you Ruth for reading!

  2. Very few artists have either the consciousness, or the visual and verbal capacity to explain their work so articulately. Heddy has all three and as such it is a real pleasure to see the works and read about them.

    1. Thanks so much for that great reaction Ahuva.