Identity through art

The students of The Neri Bloomfield School of Design and Education have channeled their artistic talents to strengthen their own identities.

Dana Peretz 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Dana Peretz 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
"Even though this journey wasn't easy for me, I'm glad for having it," explains Dana Peretz, a recent graduate of The Neri Bloomfield School of Design and Education. Her project, "Arad—Temporary Name", is one of many featured at the graduation exhibit this year at the school located between Haifa's harbor and the world-famous Bahai Gardens.
The 4th year students from the Visual Communication department were given an advisor who they worked with weekly, in addition to meeting with other students to get a wide variety of input. No formal assignment was given; instead, the students were free to find their inspiration from anything in their lives. Following the completion of the projects, an exhibit is currently displayed at the school showcasing the students' works.
Despite the lack of assignment given, an interesting phenomenon took place. Many of the students found inspiration in their own lives, in hard times they lived through, in the unique experiences they had as children of Israel.
Peretz chose to return home to create her project. "When I was 21 I left Arad, my hometown and since then, I've barely been to visit, even though my family still lives there. I always waited for the moment when I would be able to leave," she explains. "But when I found myself behind the camera, I could detach my feelings from the city and look at the beauty of it, for the first time."
Amit Weizman began his project inspired by the music of the '90s. Yet as her work progressed, she realized that the music was only the beginning. "As my guide, Yaron Shin, and I, were talking about this subject, I realized that the music is just a small part of a significant period for me and for people who grew up in the 90's," she says.
Weizman's project, entitled "Adolescence Diary," is a reflection on the time period in which she grew up. Yet she believes the piece is not simply personal. "Although you can find a few personal stories, this diary is not personal because it leans on collective events that happened in Israel during the 90's and I believe had affected all of us in one way or another," she explains.
A feature of Weizman's project is his humorous spin on movie posters from the '90s, with gas masks placed over the faces of the characters. It is this series that so clearly defines Weizman's childhood as inherently Israeli. Weizman explains, "As I see it, all of us who grew up in the 90's had a very similar experience to other teenagers in the world in that time. We all watched the same movies, listened to similar music, wore the same clothes, had emotional issues, etc, but being a teenager in Israel that time forced us to deal with much bigger issues and grow up faster."
Alla Odelia Pivkopa, another student of the school, also chose to do her project inspired by the events of her childhood, particularly that of immigrating to a new country. She explains, "Since the beginning of my studies, I always knew that my graduation project would be about my conversion to Judaism, because it was a very important and meaningful experience for me. But I realized that it is a lot more complicated than just one experience."
"I was 13 when I migrated to a new country, and during my service in the IDF I converted to Judaism out of genuine faith," she says. "Since then, much like other people who have relocated to a new country, I'm living and breathing the constant search for a place in society for my own identity, with all the complexities of a cultural mix." In her project, titled "Place, Heritage, Religion," she chose to use everyday objects such as clothes and books, to show that the search for identity and balance between the different worlds is an every day event.
Other students along with Weizman, Peretz, and Pivkopa chose personal subjects for their projects, each with a slightly different spin. Nurit Benshitrit's project, "Banana Jam", parallels her own diary with that of Anne Frank, discovering that each girl had a common way of seeing the world, despite their different childhoods. Tal Gutberg chose to make a short documentary of her grandmother's life, as seen through her eyes.
The students weren't surprised to see how many of them drew on personal experiences, inner conflicts, and their mixed heritages to create their works. Pivkopa says, "Finishing such an important chapter in our life has many emotions attached to it. I think that many of us wanted to do a project using past experiences in order to close this chapter and begin a new one whole."
Weizman adds, "I think the choice of creating art out of personal experiences is natural. But the projects are never just personal. When it's based on personal experience, it always has something to say about a wider phenomenon."
Following their graduation from the school, the students have a variety of plans for the future. For Weizman, the plans are unclear, although he hopes to continue in the field of graphic design, with a focus on music. Peretz opened her own small business a few months ago, focusing on design and business branding in Haifa, and his hoping her client list continues to grow. Peretz will be moving to Norway at the end of the month, planning on getting her masters in design in Europe. She says, "I want to develop myself in this field and at the same time, get a new experience in a new country."