A monument of (in)gratitude

American artist Karin Dolin has proposed placing an eight-meter sculpture of a woman eating an orange in front of the National Insurance Institute in Tel Aviv

(photo credit: KEREN DOLIN)
Karin Dolin may be the first person to ever write a thank you note to the National Insurance Institute of Israel (NII) and if she isn’t, she is most definitely the first person to ever offer the organization a gift. The 29-year-old, American-born artist, sent her letter of gratitude a week ago, after a little procrastination and is still awaiting a reply.
“I sent a fax but it was rejected,” laughs Dolin, “so I sent it in the mail.”
The proposed gift, an eight-meter sculpture of a woman eating an orange, has yet to be made. Dolin wants to be certain that her overture will be accepted before putting hammer to nail, so to speak.
The offer is part of Dolin’s final project, “Monument to the Insignificant,” in her Continuing Arts Studies at Beit Berl College’s Hamidrasha Faculty of the Arts, which will be presented as part of the graduates’ exhibition this Thursday night. In her showing, she will display the letter, the 31-inch mock-up of the sculpture and a virtual reality simulation showing what the real thing would look like perched outside of NII headquarters on Yitzhak Sadeh Street in Tel Aviv. 
“I wanted to make a gift that I would give to society and would be rejected,” says the LA-born Dolin over coffee in Habima Square. “I’m not generally a political artist. I’m not sure how this happened.”
Dolin has a sly smile and a cropped, wavy bob. She is smart and funny with a dark undercurrent of cynicism, something Dolin has found resonates easily in Israeli culture. Dolin has an interest in psychology for as long as she can remember, together with a knack drawing.
“I don’t paint,” she smiles. “I don’t like color.” She has supported herself throughout her studies by working as a counselor for mentally-challenged youth.
Her studies at Hamidrasha have allowed Dolin to experiment with non-figurative drawing and staying in school (Dolin dropped out of high school at fourteen).
“I am a generally dysfunctional person. I’m bad at routine, I struggle to pay rent. Being  a student for the last six years…that’s insane for me,” she said.
Dolin refers to her final project at Minshar (School of Art), which was based on various support groups and 12-step programs she had attended over the years.
“My work stems from a feeling of dysfunction. It’s about the day-to-day, about the people who aren’t getting the help that they need and can’t function because they aren’t connected to reality.” The idea began as a series of four, large monuments. “I had a friend who was diagnosed with a serious illness. He found out that he could get all these benefits from NII. There was all this hope and then he faced an army of secretaries. He was too depressed to go there and sort everything out. I originally wanted to sculpt him waiting outside NII.”
But Dolin isn’t coming down on NII, at least not entirely. “I have mixed feelings about NII because we do have a welfare system and that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
I wanted to acknowledge that we do get something, even if it isn’t enough, even if it is so complicated to get help because everyone needs help. In a country that is so politically complex, of course there are less resources than needed.”
This sculpture, if accepted, will have many roles. “I want people to see it and feel touched and hopeful but it’s also a threatening reminder to NII not to forget the people waiting outside,” she said.
Whether Dolin will have her answer by Thursday night is unclear. “I will be very surprised if they say yes but I will be thrilled,” she smiles.
Dolin will present Monument to the Insignificant on Thursday, July 12 at the Continuing Education Program In Art Exhibition, which will run through July 28 at Hamidrasha Faculty of the Arts. Admission is free.