The designs are both bold and meticulous, the colors range from bright to muted, and the wall hangings in the Soulscapes: Works in Textile exhibition at the Museum of Art, Ein Harod, which will be on display until mid-March, are striking and accomplished visual art. The museum is located on Kibbutz Ein Harod, in the Jezreel Valley near Mount Gilboa.
The exhibition presents the work of 19 artists working in the same medium, and the artists have spent as much as five years creating the works on display.
But the show is different from other exhibits in an unexpected way. Soulscapes: Works in Textile presents works created by members of Kishorit, in the Western Galilee, a home for adults with special needs.
Kishorit is a community, built and run like a kibbutz, that offers its members employment, leisure activities, personal residences, as well as medical and nursing services.
As in any community, some of its members choose to express themselves through art, and the directors of the Museum of Art, Ein Harod, were delighted to have the opportunity to present their work to the general public for the first time. Galia Bar-Or, the director and curator, feels strongly that the Museum of Art at Ein Harod is the ideal place for the Soulscapes exhibit.
Says Bar-Or: “I have followed the development of Kishorit from its beginning in the early Nineties. The connection between the unique concept of the place on a human level, the social and community experience, and the artistic experience, in my opinion, gives meaning that should find a place in public discourse. The Museum of Art at Ein Harod is connected to the community and society in the deepest sense and therefore has exhibitions that are committed only to the central path to art, and in that way perhaps this museum is unique in comparison to other museums in the country.
“These works have been created with the utmost seriousness, thought has been dedicated to the format, execution and completion and they are presented with respect, love and attention to detail. I think these works are worthy of exhibition in the museum and the whole project is not something fleeting but reflects a world view that people can learn from and be inspired by.”
Yehudit Bejerano, the registrar of the museum, echoes Bar-Or’s sentiments on a recent tour of Soulscapes: “The museum sees itself as taking a social role, a public role, in presenting art that is created by people who may be perceived as being on the margins of society.”
She gives examples of other groups whose work the museum has shown that were considered outside of the mainstream at one point or another, among them women, Arabs and religiously observant artists.
“We wanted to help bring the work of these artists at Kishorit to the public... It’s impossible not to be impressed by the quality of their work.”
The museum acknowledges what Bejerano calls “the story behind the story,” in a text about the exhibition, which reads, in part: “Many of the members of Kishorit have to cope with difficulties of various kinds, but their emotional, intuitive area is developed, and finds fascinating ways of action.
The advantage the creators of the works in the exhibition have is that they are not captives to conceptual or technical conventions, and their works are open to expression of commonly hidden places that have not been expressed.”
The mixture of texture and design makes a strong impact, both visually and emotionally. Some of the works, such as Ohad’s The Central Path and Edna’s Plowed Field, are a clear visual representation of nature, while others, among them Arik’s Red and Galit’s Red Behind the Green, are abstract. Most of the works in the show are somewhere in the middle, presenting unique images that have a decorative beauty, and also evoke a particular mood.
Many bring to mind the gorgeous color and deceptively simple design of Henri Matisse’s prints, especially those of his Jazz book.
The exhibit also features a video about the artists and how they created their works. Yael Shilo, the chairwoman and one of the founders of Kishorit, who helped organize the exhibition, appears in the video and speaks to the artists.
Clearly her encouragement has been a factor in their persistence in completing their works, and their willingness to show them to the public. All kinds of groups have visited the exhibit since it opened in mid-January, among them pupils of many schools.
During my recent visit to the museum, a group of preschool students came in, and ran around the room energetically, stopping to look at particular wall hangings.
After a brief explanation, they were given pieces of fabric to create their own wall hangings, which were inspired by the Soulscapes show.
“You have to feel to make art, you have to give your soul,” says Shiri, one of the artists, in the video. She is making a personal sentiment, but also one that virtually all artists would recognize.
For information about the exhibit and the museum, go to the Ein Harod website at www.museumeinharod.org.il. The pieces in the show are for sale. All the proceeds go to Kishorit.