It is a great pleasure to turn our mishkan in to a “pop-up gallery” tonight for Simchat Shabbat. How natural to have art in such an architecturally elegant space. And how in sync with Jewish thinking to add the visual arts to the many other arts that create and take place in this very space. Tonight, we are honored to have a presentation of collages by Michal Nechamy, Israeli artist, Hebrew teacher and a rare artist who really enjoys talking about and explaining her art.
Collage is an ideal medium for creating art about memories. As our minds reflect on memories, we pull all sorts of extraneous thoughts, images and words together. Nothing is linear. Everything is layered.
Think of the phrase “a collage of memories” and what does it evoke? Ragged edges, sometimes blurred pictures, turns of phrase, textures, layers. It is very much the way we patch together swatches of life events through words, images, colors. Collages seem to be the quintessential medium of memory.
The difference between our collages of memoires and Michal’s is that Michal makes hers visible for all us to see and learn from. She layers aspects of her homeland that give us important ways to relate to Israel today. Think about it: Israel, if not presented liturgically, is often either politicized in the news or mythologized in something of a global cultural memory. What falls in between, I am thinking, and which is perhaps just as real and meaningful are personal images and highly individual ways of relating to Israel. These provide a different kind of “truth” for us to hold on to and digest. Michal’s family images and touches of nostalgia -- images of Jaffa oranges, halutzim working the land, to Herzl, old currency and tzedakah boxes all have a certain truth and give us an historical common denominator of this young countries’ collective imagery.
It occurred to me the other day that collage was akin to a cubist sculpture gone flat. If one of the goals of cubism is to see everything all at once -- actually how Jewish a style since we all talk at once! – not have a front and back of a sculpture but rather have access to lots of angles at the same time. Cubist sculpture is meant to be walked around in full. Then, collage is this same idea on a two dimensional surface. So, what Michal does in her collages is take us through her life, through moments of formative Israel, iconic Israel all meshed into the personal history of her family. It is a rare opportunity to enter Israel through an aesthetic narrative and find images that speak to us and our own relationship with Israel. I would posit that these images are fairly essential to being able to deal with other media which tell us nonstop about today’s complex political, economic, technological, and multi-cultural Israel.
Michal’s work lets us enter Israel in a relaxed mixture of history, continuity and present.