In days of yore family names were generally based on a person’s place of origin, or trade. The likes of Cooper, Goldsmith, Halberstadt – a hub of Central European Jewry in the 17th century – and Pressburger spring to mind. Pressburg, for those who are not entirely au fait with Central European history, is the former, German, name of Bratislava.So, what could be more natural for Ray Maor, a.k.a. Ray of Light – “maor” means light, and appears in various places in the Bible – than creating light-based sculptures. The fruits of his artistic labors will be on display at the swanky downtown Tel Aviv shopping mall of Gan Ha’ir October 18-30, as the Ray of Light 2016 exhibition.The exhibits take in all kinds of creatures, real and mythological, of various sizes. They are intricate works made of strands of copper intertwined with optical fibers.If you happen to be in the neighborhood during the Succot vacation you will be able to catch an eyeful of Maor’s lineup, which include a horse, a dragon, a unicorn and a hummingbird, and even a full-size bride-and-groom couple. If you pass through the area a few days before the exhibition opening you might even be able to get a half-decent handle on how Maor goes about his business. “The bride-and-groom piece is too big to move to the mall, so I’ll be actually making there, in situ,” he explains.
The 35-year-old Maor, who also goes by his professional moniker of Ray of Light, started out on his artistic path when he was just about knee-high to a grasshopper. In fact, the impetus for getting creatively down and dirty was an event that might have had cataclysmic consequences for the infant Maor. “My parents divorced when I was very little,” he says. “My father became very religious. I have eight half-siblings,” Maor adds with a chuckle. “My mother remarried, a Canadian guy.” It was a good match all round. “He was very good with his hands,” continues Maor. “He had all sorts of work tools. He actually built a complete yacht, from scratch, in our front yard. He taught me, mainly, how to work with power tools.”By the way, if the name Ray Maor rings a bell, you may have been one of the many who watched Amnon Levy’s show around three years ago, which was largely based on checking out Maor’s claims of being able to survive – nay, flourish – without food or water for a full eight days. Maor practices the Hindu philosophy of prana, which posits that a person can live off cosmic energy alone. Despite Levy’s grave doubts, Maor went ahead with the experiment, cloistered in a Galilean B&B, with only the company of eight CCTV cameras which monitored his every move, 24 hours a day, to make sure he didn’t take any sneak snacks. Levy brought a doctor along for the ride, to take blood from Maor as the process progressed, and to run lab checks. The doctor was frequently left, literally, lost for words, as the lab results showed that, despite losing weight and seeming to display weird mood swings, Maor was doing just fine.Maor, who recently also took part in a TV survival reality show in the Amazon jungle, says he brings that cosmic energy to artistic work too. “I started a journey of spiritual development a few years ago, and I now teach that in Israel and all over the world. I realized that when I create art I go into a meditative state. It is sort of occupational therapy, devoid of thought, and you get into automatic activity of course, after you develop your own technique. I really enjoyed it and I decided to do that for my own fun.”
Maor has a daytime job in the hi-tech sector but increasingly devotes time to his art. And, thanks to his prana orientation, time appears to be something he has on his hands, in abundance. “I eat only a couple of meals a week,” he notes. “That saves me hours of time every day.” It also cuts down on expenses.His artistic exploits were fueled, appropriately, by romantic intent. “I had a girlfriend, my first love. I wanted to give her a present and I made her a heart of wood.” The gesture helped to move him nicely along the creative trajectory. “I began to understand dimensions, and how to make things out of wood – sculptures – that are a stage further than practical things, like a table or a bed. I wanted to make something unique. Everybody makes tables or beds. I wanted to create something of my own.”The spark that set Maor’s sculpturing endeavor in motion came one night. “Around a year and a half ago I had a dream – I generally get my ideas from dreams. I saw a tree with colors. I wanted to do something with that.”He also fed off 2009 sci-fi movie Avatar. “In the film all the animals, trees and flowers shine at night, in all sorts of psychedelic colors. That really impressed me.”Maor certainly didn’t choose the easiest way to make works of art. His figures, which include natural and supernatural creatures, are the result of hours upon hours of effort, spent interlacing copper with optical fibers. The copper provides the necessarily tangible solidity, while the very flexible fibers enable him to illuminate his sculptures with different, interchanging, embedded colors. “Each work has a remote control which I can set to change colors every second, every five seconds, or however I want,” the artist explains.
Naturally, that changes how the viewer perceives the items on display, and draws and holds their interest a while longer. “It’s a lot of work, but that’s how it goes with art,” says Maor philosophically. “This is my art and I am very proud of it, that it’s so unique.”Creating the sculptures also requires great attention to detail. He says he has the requisite knowhow. “I am basically a mathematician. I was an officer in Mamram,” he says, referencing the IDF Center of Computing and Information Systems. “My works are very carefully calculated. I see the mathematics around them.”They may be math-based – as is, by the way, music – but the effect is anything but technical or coldly calculated.His recent jaunt to the Amazon jungle, on the reality show, provided him with some more food for thought – even if he does tend to do without vittles – and served to fire the forthcoming exhibits. “That wasn’t my first trip there, and I got inspiration from the trees and the animals there,” he says.Maor says he’s looking forward to seeing where his next departure will take him. “I am waiting to see where the Great Spirit will point me next. I don’t so much initiate things. I mostly just wait for the ideas to come to me.”He may be motivated by higher forces but Maor wants to make his mark on terra firma. “I am an artist and I want recognition for my work,” he states. “There is the ego thing that wants recognition.”The Ray of Light 2016 exhibition will be on display at Gan Ha’ir, next to the Mizrahi Tefahot Bank, from 8 p.m. on October 18-30.