Lighting the Spark

Maya Gelfman keeps the flame burning in her new solo exhibit.

Maya Gelfman 370 (photo credit: Roie Avidan)
Maya Gelfman 370
(photo credit: Roie Avidan)
Maya Gelfman is an artist who is not afraid of anything. She is constantly pushing boundaries and blurring lines. As both street artist and fine artist, Gelfman’s work is multi-layered, multi-formed, and truly beyond the scope of words. Her art speaks for itself, and it speaks volumes. At once both delicate and assaulting, Gelfman’s work often plays on juxtapositions; making the ordinary extraordinary. Her new solo exhibition, “Spark,” currently on display at Zadik Gallery in Tel Aviv through mid-December, is the result of a year spent sealed inside the studio, completely absorbed.For those who may be unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe yourself as an artist?
Art for me is a way of life. I seek to explore, experiment, delve and create in a complete manner. I see it as a mirror; allowing perspective, reality, and a parallel reality. Through it, I wish to extend the boundaries of thought, attention, understanding and giving. With that in mind, my work often deals with subjects such as identity and boundaries, and the shattering of both.
My work also deals with relationships and interactions, not just in the human sense, but also between different elements, materials, properties and attributes. Definitions and awareness of the bigger picture, and its constituent small details, influence my process.
My work is characterized by delicate yet complex drawings made with a unique mixed-media technique on paper that combines pencils, color, graphite, embroidery, cutouts and ready-made. I also do large installations made through long, Sisyphean processes. My choice of working with everyday and industrial materials is also part of my artistic agenda. I find it challenging to translate what surrounds me, what may be considered common, into fine art. This also means that I hang hand-made “one off” art pieces in public spaces. Being out there is a significant choice for me. It enables me to reach a diverse audience directly and facilitate a different kind of artistic dialogue.Can you talk about your current solo exhibition? The current exhibition, “Spark,” deals with the duality that is human endeavor: the meeting of the internal world with the external reality. The tension resulting from this encounter has a simmering impact on that which is caught in the middle. I wanted to point out the spark, which is the starting point that ignites creation. It is also the only completely authentic and unhindered point in the process.
I wanted to think out loud about the primal, pre-genesis state of infinite potential, but also to talk about the importance of allowing it to be inspired and influenced by its surroundings.
The exhibition consists of 12 completely new works: three series of drawings, and a large-scale installation, consisting of a shell of iron net and metal hangers woven manually with over 300,000 woolen threads.What have been the reactions to “Spark” thus far? The response has been quite amazing, to be honest. The opening drew hundreds of people, and was a really fun night. The gallerist tells me that in the mornings when she arrives at the gallery, there are people actually waiting outside the doors, and that several visitors were touched so much by the works, they were brought to tears. The media response has been widespread and beautiful. Every Saturday, I open the gallery myself. The interactions with visitors have been emotional and eye-opening.
Can you talk about past exhibitions & projects that you’ve done? “Spark” is my fifth solo exhibition. My fourth is still going on until the end of this year, in Beit Ariela at the Tel Aviv Municipality Department of Art and Culture. In the past, my works were exhibited in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Haifa Museum of Art, 2nd Herzliya Biennial, Art Basel in Miami, Tokyo, and New York, the Tel Aviv Artists House, “Gallery On the Cliff” in Netanya, and many more. As I said earlier, I’m also active in the public domain, as a street artist.
My best known street project is the ongoing “Mind the Heart!” in which I mark urban frames with red woolen hearts framed in shoe-boxes. The idea was born from an almost naive need to find intimacy within my city; to pull the passers-by out of their incessant, goal-oriented daily race and into a state of contemplation and awareness of what surrounds them.
How does the Israeli art scene differ from others around the world? It’s funny, or perhaps sad, but although my art has traveled the globe and been exhibited internationally, I myself have never experienced other art scenes for any period long enough to be worthy of the term “experience.”
It’s one of the top things on my agenda for this next year actually, to expand my activities to other locations in a much deeper and wider sense.
Who is your favorite artist of all time? Patti Smith: she’s a musician, but she’s so much more than that. She’s a poet, a writer, a painter, and a human that breathes and lives art. She does this (and has done so for over 40 years now) in a complete manner, staying true to herself; uncompromising, unflinching, never fearing to go all the way and to expose herself. Although she sees all the ugliness and evil of society, she has never lost hope in the beauty that is the human soul.
Are there any other Israeli artists who are inspiring you now? I could write many names, but not just one. What inspires me is attitude coupled with actions. Israel is an amazing ground for creativity because of its complexity and because it always leaves you hungry. You can never be fully satisfied and content here. It drives many artists here, in all mediums, to search for new alternative ways and perspectives through which to express themselves.
I am fortunate to be surrounded by a beehive of life-forces, buzzing around feverishly to push boundaries, and influence change to make a mark.
If your art had a soundtrack, what would it be? When I work in the studio, and in my life in general, I strive to be in the moment, both physically and mentally.
This dictates a wide variety of emotions and moods through the creative process, even of a single work, and my soundtrack varies accordingly. From beautiful silence, to warrior spirits such as Nina Simon and Edith Piaf, to the soothing cradle that is Nat King Cole, and all the way to Patti Smith, Queens of the Stone Age, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Nirvana.For more information on Gelfman and her exhibitions visit