Wax poetic

Shira Zelwer first sculpts and then paints, using two media at once.

Shira Zelwer 88 248 (photo credit: Matan Daube)
Shira Zelwer 88 248
(photo credit: Matan Daube)
Shira Zelwer lives for wax. Molding images of everyday life out of wax, Zelwer landed the Most Promising Artist Award at the Fresh Paint Contemporary Art Fair in 2008. Held in Tel Aviv, Fresh Paint creates a stage on which emerging, independent Israeli artists can showcase and sell their modern art. What makes this fair unlike others is the unique cooperation it harbors between up-and-coming independent artists and Tel Aviv's esteemed galleries. The Igal Ahouvi Art Collection awarded Zelwer with the NIS 20,000 prize and the opportunity to present a solo exhibition at Fresh Paint 2 from among 70 talented artists. Zelwer received the award on the basis of her artistic achievement thus far, and her potential for a successful art career. The committee reflected on her art, stating "It is rare these days to meet an artist who so successfully transforms everyday objects to create something new, who redefines and gives meaning to a banal environment." Zelwer's show, curated by Ellen Ginton, chief curator of Israeli Art at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, will be open to the public throughout Fresh Paint 2, which runs from March 18 to 21. According to the 30-year-old Zelwer, she works in wax "because part of what I do is creating something human that has feeling. Wax is similar to the human body; it changes with heat and has something that lets you put your heart into it." Unlike other wax artists who stain the wax with colors before molding it, Zelwer sculpts wax in its purest form and then paints over the wax with acrylic. This technique allows the transparency of the wax to peek through and gives her greater control of her art. For her, it is like being able to both sculpt and paint her art, using two media at once. Zelwer is inspired by everyday life, whether it is nostalgia, a family scene or a landscape with which she can identify. Most of her sculptures draw from her memory, but she promises that everyone can relate. Her art depicts families, buildings, parks and religious moments; she strives to show the connection between people. The artist, with Australian roots, states, "Everyone is influenced by who they are and where they come from. It's what makes you who you are." With this ideology, the Zelwer sculpts images of her religious upbringing and the secular environment in which she lives today. She has sculpted religious people and non-religious people because both are part of her. Zelwer adds, "I accept all as part of the world." After studying art at Beit Berl College's "Hamidrasha," Zelwer taught in two high schools while creating art. However, she left her teaching position to focus on creating her solo exhibition after Fresh Paint 1. With the NIS 20,000 cash prize as her sole income, she has devoted all of her time over the past year to crafting new and innovative art. Although she refused to disclose the contents of her exhibit prior to its opening, Zelwer has taken wax to a new level. With the help of adapted equipment from her father's machinery factory, Zelwer was able to press wax into spaghetti-like strips, which she then crafted into wax tapestries. Her gallery space promises to evoke nostalgia in the viewer. She stated that her exhibition was in no way a political statement, but she designed the show so that the viewer would hopefully walk away feeling moved. Zelwer was given complete artistic freedom, an exhibition space of whatever size she desired and the help from a world-class curator. She stated, "This is quite an incredible opportunity for a young artist." Shira Zelwer will showcase her solo exhibition debut alongside other young Israeli artists, lectures, panels, and gallery talks at Tel Aviv's newly renovated Hatahana, near Neveh Tzedek. Open March 18 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m, March 19 from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m, March 20 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m and March 21 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Entry is NIS 20, which includes all workshops and lectures. More information: www.freshpaint.co.il