An angle on Anglo art

How much people’s everyday environment impacts on their behavior, quality of life and creative output is not a precisely quantifiable element.

July 31, 2019 18:44
An angle on Anglo art

‘ABRAHAM’S RAM’ by Elisheva Horowitz.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

How much people’s everyday environment impacts on their behavior, quality of life and creative output is not a precisely quantifiable element. However, perhaps, after members of the public view the works that will be shortly be on display in the “The Talent Within” exhibition, that may become a little clearer.
The show, which opens at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on August 8 and will run through August 30, comprises around 50 works by a variety of Jerusalemite artists, all of whom hail from the English-speaking world. The group goes by the self-definitive name of the Jerusalem Artists Circle, although, in fact, the exhibitors come from a wider cultural and geographic backdrop.
“There over 200 artists who prefer to communicate by email, and there are over 100 in the Facebook group, which is starting to bring in people from all over the world. I guess they are googling artists in Israel or something like that,” observes Leorah Parker.
Parker is the brains, creative talent and logistical engine behind the new exhibition and the whole idea of connecting Anglo artists from these parts. She has been in the field for quite some time.
“I have been doing art professionally for 30 years, business-wise, in northern Virginia,” she explains.
Parker, who also has paintings in the forthcoming exhibition, brings substantial street-level experience to her Jerusalem Artists Circle venture, which sprang into life in 2013.
“I had a studio gallery for 14 years. I was involved in community and connecting people. I found out how important inspiration was in connecting artists together.”
She may have been something of a local fixture back in northern Virginia, but, like many an immigrant the world over, when she made aliyah nine years ago, Parker suddenly found herself to the rear of the grid, and back to scratch. Still, she had been through that before, and emerged smiling and productively active.
“Coming here, I was not able to connect. I had to start over again when I moved from Virginia to Florida, and then I had to do that again when I made aliyah.”
Much like the country’s pioneers, Parker was faced with something of a wilderness and decided – to paraphrase a certain David Ben-Gurion – to plant some seeds and get some flowers going.
“When I came here, I didn’t find a community, so I started one,” she states. “I started collecting, finding artists that were also Anglos.”
Parker literally picked them up as she went along.
“I’d maybe go to an exhibition and see some work by some Anglo painters. And there were a couple painting in the park down from the Jerusalem Theater, and I went over and introduced myself and I asked them if they’d like to connect to other artists. They were English-speakers, so that worked out,” she chuckles.
The “Anglo” epithet should be used advisedly. Parker has been here for nine years and seems pretty settled in Jerusalem, but naturally her life here has run a different course from how it would probably have run had she stayed put in northern Virginia or Florida. The here-there plot thickens over time.
“When you come from another country, when do you become an Israeli artist?” she muses. “An American Israeli artist – is that how I’d be defined? I don’t know. Some artists have been in Israel for 20 or more years. And we can get together and share what’s going on in our creative lives.”
There’s more to the local circle than visual arts.
“I left it open,” Parker notes. “There are writers and sculptors, people who make flower arrangements.” Cross-fertilization is an important theme. “There are ways to inspire each other to continue to create; otherwise, we get stagnant.”
The impetus for the Jerusalem Artists Circle came from Parker’s stateside endeavor. “In Virginia, when we opened up the arts community, it just created this energy that just excited us to continue with our work, as opposed to artists who want to, say, just create within their own quiet space.”
Parker says that part of the philosophy behind the artist circle is to shift people a little out of their comfort zone – which any self-respecting artist should do anyway – and try their hand at new avenues of expression.
“I came here and I went to school in Talpiot with [Jerusalem Studio School founder] Israel Hershberg, and I went to Italy to study for a summer.”
That entailed a sharp deviation from Parker’s tried-and-tested idea-to-corporeal-fruition continuum. “I used to work a lot off of photographs I’d taken. Here, and in Italy, I did a lot of painting outside. It was such a major transition for me, working outdoors, even though I’d already worked slightly outdoors, but not totally. After you do that, you can’t go back to photographs.”
The mind-set recalibration also extends to other members of the local creative community. “We have gone to new places [of work], such as people who have never done ceramics. I’ll suddenly schedule something and ask who wants to do a ceramics class. So people who had never gotten to do that, did that, and that expands our creative horizons.”
In fact, Parker tries to draw people in from even further afield, including from beyond the artistic pale. “Even if you’re not an artist, and want to join in with us, you can think of color or shape and, as, for example, we go through the flea market in Old Jaffa and you can find something that strikes you and write about it. That may be people who never wrote before. It’s about motivation and inspiration and encouraging.”
Ein Kerem, in the late winter as the almond trees are in full glorious bloom, has also provided Parker and her ever-widening pool of partners in creative endeavor with a push in the desired expressive direction. Movies about artists and exhibitions also come within the circle’s purview. “Whatever is creative in terms of art, and on whatever level you want to take it. That’s what’s been so exciting, having people connect and actually put a pencil in their hand, and draw.”
Parker’s project has also brought Arab and Jewish artists together for creative sessions which, she feels, help to broaden the horizons of everyone concerned, and in particular recent Anglo arrivals to these shores. “It’s like learning about Israel and Jerusalem, places we can connect to, doing an artist retreat, like in Eilat or the botanical gardens at Ein Gedi – anywhere.”
Following on from the artist circle ethos, “The Talent Within” exhibition is an aptly named group of works that take in a generous array of styles and genres.
Jack Pillemer says of his approach: “I paint outside, mostly in and around Jerusalem. I absorb the colors and shapes, the contrasts and juxtapositions, and then begin. And also the abstract landscapes emerge somehow, shadows and light form from within.”
Michael Kagan has been involved with creative processes for many years, as a scientist, writer, poet, photographer, storyteller, film producer and, lately, material artist. The exhibition blurb notes that “his strength lies in his ability to see what is normally overlooked, to make connections between points that seem so disconnected. This comes from his deep view of the holistic nature of the Creation and our roles as creators.”
His photographic contributions to the Cinematheque show, indeed, proffer a singular take on some of Mother Nature’s gifts.
There are works of great delicacy – paintings that teem with bursts of color, classical-looking pictures, more pastoral creations and even some that tend toward the more graphic comics-like end of the pictorial spectrum.
“The Talent Within” provides a glimpse of what the creative Anglo community has to offer. And who knows? The Jerusalem Artists Circle may even widen a little further after the show.
The exhibition officially opens at 7 p.m. on August 12, and some of the works will be available for purchase. For more information:

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