Optimist with a gift

Living with Down's Syndrome hasn't prevented artist Sahar Pick from realizing his talent.

sahar pick 88 298 (photo credit: )
sahar pick 88 298
(photo credit: )
For Sahar Pick the saying "always look on the bright side of life" is not just another hackneyed clich . For him the motto has become a reality, manifested in his art. Pick's work is both vivid and optimistic - a reflection of this exceptional artist who was born with Down's Syndrome. Pick, 32, whose new exhibition "Moments" will be launched later this month at Givatayim Theater, is adamant about leading a normal life and living it to the fullest. Although most Down's children attend special education schools, Carmiel-born Pick, who was diagnosed with the syndrome at six months, spent most of his school years in mainstream education. Following school he began nursing school in Jerusalem during which he volunteered once a week at a military base in Samaria, where he was awarded an "Excellent Volunteer" certificate. Despite having been granted exemption from regular army service, at 19, unbeknownst to his parents, Pick corresponded with the army and requested to join as a "regular." For the next two years he performed full-time service in the educational forces as a quartermaster in uniform. Today Pick works as a nursing attendant in Jerusalem, helping disabled people and the elderly, while living in sheltered accommodation. Of his girlfriend of two years, Sivan, he also speak glowingly. But fitting into so-called "normal" society has never been enough for Pick. Without his art, he says, his life would not be whole. "I became interested in art when I was a teenager," he recalls. "As a child I was drawing houses, like many other kids, and at some point I began to draw more meaningful buildings, like the Western Wall, for example. I kept on developing my art as a young person, so from a child who painted, I gradually became an artist. Now painting feels like an instinct." Pick paints mosaic-like images using tip paint markers, mainly in bright colors, creating a multitude of geometric figures that enable him to break the light and reflect it at many angles. "I've always been fascinated by the way photography captures reality," he says, "but I decided to capture reality the way I see it inside of me. When I saw that the public was so touched by this style at my early exhibitions, I decided to keep it and make it mine." Pick's curator, Yael Margalit, who was first exposed to his work three months ago while choosing artists for a big exhibition of disabled artists, says his style caught her eye immediately. She says: "Sahar's paintings demonstrate his ability to depict images that, on one hand, are somewhat na ve and reflect the choice to see only the good in things, but on the other hand are very complex and broken into many pieces. It creates the impression that he looks at reality with some distance, yet with deep and intense observation." After submitting examples to America-Israel Culture Foundation (AICF) following his army service Pick received three consecutive scholarships, enabling him to eventually study arts at Oranim College in Kiryat Tivon in 1996. Perseverance paid off in 1996 when Israel's Philatelic Service approached him after receiving his work from one of his teachers. "They asked me to paint the images for the official Israeli Holidays stamps," he says. "The Service hadn't known about the syndrome before they actually met me to discuss the design. If you see the Service's list of painters, my name appears below Picasso's." The stamps success brought a string of awards like AICF's "Ambassador of Good Will", US Organization for Down's Syndrome's "World Representative of Down's Syndrome" in 1997, and the prestigious "Award of Equality" by the Ministry of Justice in 2003. The independence Pick has acquired in life is priceless, but he is equally protective of his artistic freedom. "The only time my father has ever interfered in my work," he says, "was when the management of Carmiel Dance Festival asked me four years ago to paint the settings. After finishing the image my dad commented it was not what the management meant. I painted another image based on my dad's advice, but when the management came to see the work, they said the second image was not what they meant. I showed the first and they went for it. My father learned his lesson. My inspiration comes from me only." Pick, who has a phenomenal memory for names, dates, and who occupied which governmental office in which years, refuses to focus on his difficulties and when asked to any negative aspect of living with Down's: "There might have been some but I can't remember them." Sahar Pick's exhibition will be displayed at Givatayim Theater from December 26 to January 14 as part of the theater's Hanukka Exhibition Festival.