Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Disgusted by My Disgust

Recently, I visited the Rokach House and the Guttman Museum in the neighborhoods of Neve Tzedek in Tel-Aviv. Neve Tzedek is my favorite neighborhood, besides my own leafy green one, with the oldest, most European houses in Tel-Aviv and an aristocratic air. Nothing is ancient in this city, not even the lust that pervades the city streets or the rhythm that Tel-Aviv seems to sway with, but Neve Tzedek is the closest thing that you will get in Tel-Aviv. 
The Rokach House is home to some inspiring information about Tel-Aviv's early life, and is one of the oldest houses in the city. It's filled with artifacts from this time, including a clothes and a table, and over the table in the dining room is a picture of another table set and ready for the people and food, which called to mind "The Last Supper." My favorite part of the museum were the sculptures and pictures, by Lea Majaro Mintz, the granddaughter of Rokach. Her work is inspiring, but at first I was disgusted by it. Her work is about women with REAL women, why didn't Dove use this in their ads? These women are overweight, sagging, and delightful. At first my mind went to a dark place, "Why would she sculpt something so ugly??" But then, I realized, I was one of these women too, we all are, with curves and sags and smiles. She was sculpting nature, whereas sculpting Barbie would really have been to sculpt something truly heinous. Looking at her creations, and her colorful pictures of busty naked women made me light up--I wanted to strip of my clothes and join their colorful circle of commraderie. This, I thought, is really what women should be doing--dancing, not naked-but without the inhibition that dancing this way entails--we shouldn't stop dancing because society tells us that our bodies are too old, too flabby, too saggy, too ugly. We are not too anything, because we are all individuals created to reflect a certain, specific aspect of humanity. 

Here's the Artists Statement: 

"I studied painting and drawing at the Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem and afterwards taught at Bezalel, Bar Ilan University, and other colleges for training art teachers. I taught the subject "Form and Color" which is based on the special language of the visual arts that grew from the understanding of the abstract. 

From the start it was clear to me that the visual arts (until the most recent years) were the work of male artists only and they were those who expounded its theories. Women, except for a few women artists mentioned in art history as minor artists, took no part in the creation except as models or bystanders-always loyal to any show of art or culture. 

Male artists liked to relate to women in their creations and found in them a source of beauty, harmony, sex. Their point of view was mainly that of one watching his object,seeing it from the outside. I tried to express her from the point of view of someone who feels her from the inside. 

The woman, as I feel her, is a tired creature, tired from the burden of being a modern woman, involved in society and its demands, trying to enter all the professions which in the past were for men only. In addition she remains the birth-giver, she nurtures and educates the children and also makes sure that the household chores are done. It seems that she's been liberated, but in reality she's taken upon herself a burden twice as heavy. 

I was the first in Israel (one of the first in the world) to think "feminine." In my sculptures I wanted to express the mature woman-relaxed, rumpled, flowing, with a large bosom and wide hips, a tired woman searching for a moment of relaxation. In my art I try to express the inner codes of women, codes that may not be accepted by male artists. These are codes such as feeling and empathy, logic aided by a supersensory comprehension, sensuality combined with the need to bond with others and the environment. 

From the beginning I thoght that art should reflect the geographical surroundings, both physical and culture, in which we live. I strove to express the individuality that exists in my country-the meeting of ancient and modern, a world with a long history connected to the land and its archeological treasures on the one hand and on the other, a modern lifestyle which includes democratic morals, socialism, and achievements in the field of hi-tech. From here, the I make of clay. The look of the clay gives a feeling of antiquity, it is a substance that early man already used for artist purposes. At the same time it is flexible enough to express any modern shape." 

(Rokach's father was a good Jewish doctor from the Tzfat area, who became so close to the rulers that when Tzfat saw riots against Jews he was saved because of his special relationship with the authorities.) The garden was also beautiful, and there were little sculptures in every nook of the house. My favorite was of two sleeping bodies next to each other on a bed, reminding me of my sister and I snuggled up on a bed as babies.