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, June 30, 2016

Anne Sassoon and Studio Visitors at Artspace Gallery

Town Planners, oil on canvas by Anne Sassoon

Anne Sassoon presents her third solo exhibit at Artspace Gallery in the German Colony. Characters who fly in through the door picks up where her last exhibit at this venue, in 2012, left off.

Artspace Gallery, very close to the beaten track of the German Colony’s popular Emek Refaim Street, is a destination in itself. Gallery owner Linda Zisquit started exhibiting contemporary art here in 1994, and for 22 years has been showing art in her Jerusalem home, with its high-ceilings, arched windows, carpet style-tiled floor, and natural sunlight pouring into the exhibit rooms. The gallery gives a glimpse into Yerushalmi homes from an earlier age.

Zisquit, is a published poet, literary translator, editor, and teacher of creative writing at Bar Ilan University. One of her great talents is bringing people together. Exhibit openings often become an oasis for conversation, with the artworks propelling discussions between lovers of contemporary painting and drawing.

In Exiles, 4 years ago, much of the focus was on people set adrift in boats, which is as timely now as ever. Now, in Characters…, the emphasis shifts to bureaucrats and officials that come to the artist in an almost stream-of-consciousness process. Sassoon shows 18 paintings in this exhibit.

Though I discussed her background here, her fascinating life bears some repeating.

Born in North Wales, UK, and educated in art schools in Great Britain, Sassoon lived for blocks of time in apartheid Johannesburg, post-apartheid Cape Town, Boston, London and Jerusalem. Then as now, her art reflected her world. Her drawings in the 80’s were of black defendants on trial, and she found herself exhibiting with artists of the South African Resistance Art Movement, including Robert Hodgins, Deborah Bell, and William Kentridge.  At the time, Kentridge, an animator, was known only locally, but in the 90’s catapulted to international recognition. Despite the compelling art environment, the political situation deteriorated, causing her and her husband, journalist Benjamin Pogrund, to say their good-byes to their jailed friend Nelson Mandela and re-locate first to London and later to Jerusalem.

All these parts of her life serve to invigorate her visual memory bank and are used to address social and political tremors she senses. Sassoon finds embryonic sparks for her paintings through visual prompts from a variety of sources, including drawings from life, memory, YouTube, and scraps of photographs from around the studio.

She allows the characters emerging on her canvas the flexibility to shift, change, and develop with some fluidity into the final image, sometimes asserting more of a presence, sometimes diminishing into more subdued roles in service to the finished work.

Trio, oil on canvas by Anne Sassoon

Her involvement in these works is more like that of a choreographer than an artist. She is not specifically invested in formal structure, or in a laborious process. She is an observer of people and is attuned to body language in their movements, and says in her statement:
The movement between the characters as they relate or turn away from each other creates a kind of dance, which interests me. It’s about public or social performance and self-awareness, political and theatrical gestures, people attempting to approach each other.
Gesticulating bureaucrats speaks of an all too familiar world of officialdom. Absent are women at these tables of insistent people. Masks carry over from the previous exhibit as part of her arsenal of revealing and concealing expression. She shows many paintings of paired people that either connect or fail to connect to each other, creating insights into the relationships.

As is her custom, Sassoon commits herself to painting a self-portrait once a year on her birthday. One of the many things we learn from the great Dutch master Rembrandt is his personal practice of painting self-portraits over his life time. Individually, they were paintings of that moment, recording himself. Together, they form a continuum of the artists’ self-awareness as he changed in age, maturity, and psychological state.

Self-portrait, oil on canvas by Anne Sassoon

It is not unusual for painters to do self portraits; the artist is the model that always shows up and is affordable. Nothing else about the endeavor is easy. The artist-model may not talk too much, but on the downside, she never stops moving. When painting a different sitter, the artist may mark the pose with tape, chalk, plumb lines or other devices to get back in position, but when the model is also the artist, she, out of necessity, is in constant motion, mixing colors, stepping back from the canvas, and if a mirror is used, then every slight shift creates a challenge to return to the same view. This can be an exercise in frustration for a less experienced painter.  Sassoon overcomes this challenge by painting from intuition  with confidence garnered over time.

Sassoon’s self-studies serve as documentation of likeness, but much more. She is not so much interested in meticulously copying life. She knows this model inside and out. That self-knowledge comes across with a seemingly facile burst of interconnected strokes, unifying the figure to her environment in a cohesive whole.
Uninvited subjects fly in through the door. This exhibit brings us into Sassoon’s world.

The exhibition is open at Artspace Gallery through the summer: in June during gallery hours Tuesday and Thursday 5-7 and by appointment and continues in July and August by appointment.

Artspace Gallery
02 566-2423
HaTsfira St. 5
Jerusalem, Israel
All images courtesy of Artspace Gallery

This was originally published on Times of Israel here or

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Women’s Work (Never Ends) and Maya Angelou

Building the Sukkah, photograph, Yael Danino

I recently curated an exhibit in honor of International Women's Day at the American Center in Jerusalem. The invitation is posted here.

Sharing my text and a few of the varied works from the exhibit.

Women’s Work – Heddy Abramowitz, Curator

There's only one thing in life for a woman; it's to be a mother... A woman artist must be... capable of making primary sacrifices. – Mary Cassatt, 1844-1926.

When I was in my studio I didn't give a damn what sex I was... I thought art is art. – Alice Neel, 1900-1984.

Excellence has no sex. – Eva Hesse, 1936-1970.

Do I even think about myself as a woman when I go to make art? Of course not. – Judy Chicago, born 1939.

A creator requires much time and space to pursue her muse – to think, try, make, discard, try and fail, try better, until the results satisfy. Can the creating person be true to her art if she is also responsible to other compelling calls on her time, spirit, thoughts, and abilities? This exhibit, through the eyes and hands of these 19 contemporary artists, responds.

A previous exhibit was the kernel from which Women’s Work grew. Amphi-bion was the inaugural exhibit at the Studio of Her Own’s gallery space (A group promoting professional Jewish religious women artists. Full disclosure: I serve voluntarily on the Advisory Board). It explored multiple, often competing, facets of women as creators, with a curatorial team including Julia Aronson, Yael Buchbinder-Shimoni, Noga Greenberg, Avigail Fried, and Batnadiv HaKarmi, who served as co-curator for this exhibit.

Herzl Says mixed media 2013 by Avigail Fried

I grew up in the US during the social revolutions of the 60s and 70s. American rights enshrined in the Declaration of Independence to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” stood in sharp contrast to populations which lived less-entitled lives. That “all men are created equal” rang hollow to women, long after the Suffragettes won the right to vote.

The quiet rustlings of coming change came in the form of a question for women after 1945: After seeing battle, nursing soldiers, running factories, doing serious research and working in non-‘womanly’ pursuits, could women happily go back to living barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen, as the rankling phrase goes?

Jean Baker Miller (1927-2006, American psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, editor, teacher, and author) said in her classic work Toward a New Psychology of Women, 1976:
“Most so-called women's work is not recognized as real activity. One reason for this attitude may be that such work is usually associated with helping others' development, rather than with self-enhancement or self-employment.”
Was it any wonder the rustlings became a storm?

Spouse mixed media assemblage, Elinora Schwartz

By my generation, the storm rumblings of what women could or could not do were already gale force. Shortly after my childhood ― replete with memories of wearing short white gloves, riding in the front while Negroes, in the parlance of the day, sat in the back of Washington, D.C. public trams and buses, and women worked in a narrow range of acceptable ‘helping’ fields ― the skies broke. By dint of hard work and by demanding change, the ‘firsts’ were achieved. Women’s work options widened and we got on the playing field, however uneven.

Women artist activists struggled to be seen in a macho art world. In 1987, the National Museum of Women in the Arts was established in Washington, D.C., giving a stage for women creators, and its existence was followed by other institutions cracking open the door to women.

Jewish women traditionally take on religious responsibility from the age of 12, and as young women they are expected to soon take on roles as wives and mothers.

The term, מעשה כפיה (ma’aseh capeya), work of her hands, is a phrase from The Woman of Valor, sung at the Shabbat evening meal in many traditional Jewish homes,
“She considers a field and buys it; from the fruit of her handiwork she plants a vineyard. She girds her loins with might and strengthens her arms”
    – A Woman of Valor, Proverbs 31.

We glean that women’s creativity was valued in Jewish tradition, if it was to help the family. Encouraging creativity for her personal fulfillment?  Not so much.

As seen in the above quotes by famous American women artists, perspective shifts with each generation.

Though women artists “have come a long way, baby” since the Virginia Slims ad was popular, the religious woman artist in Israel faces a steep climb in a largely secular art world.

In Women’s Work, we see the artist facing her practical limitations with eyes wide open. We see the artist as sexual being, the artist facing her biological clock, the artist in her primal role of life-giver, the artist qua mother, the artist as caretaker, the creator, the artist caught in a cul-de-sac of domesticity. Each reflects both a universal look at women in society and her personal take as each artist grapples with her challenges.

Some of the artists include a nod to the global economy in their works, including American-made products as a seamless part of their world. Some of the artists use traditional needle works in a contemporary twist, elevating women’s crafts to a higher level of expression. Instead of facing the children or art question as an either/or decision, we see women who work their passion alongside familial and economic responsibilities ― not as an obstacle ― but as an integral given.

Women’s Work is the ‘work of our hands’ in its narrow sense, but also the work of our minds and our souls.

Woman Work

I've got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
Then the chicken to fry
The baby to dry
I got company to feed
The garden to weed
I've got shirts to press
The tots to dress
The can to be cut
I gotta clean up this hut
Then see about the sick
And the cotton to pick.

Shine on me, sunshine
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again.

Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind
Let me float across the sky
'Til I can rest again.

Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.

Sun, rain, curving sky
Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
You're all that I can call my own.

                            – Maya Angelou