Ariela Wertheimer – a multidisciplinary artist

Aharon Farkash, who operates the Jaffa-based Farkash Gallery, wandered into her studio and instantly fell in love with her art.

Artist Ariela Wertheimer in Venice. (photo credit: PR)
Artist Ariela Wertheimer in Venice.
(photo credit: PR)
If anyone had told multidisciplinary artist Ariela Wertheimer as recently as 18 months ago that she would one day be exhibiting at the Venice Biennale, she would not have believed them. Though naturally creative, and an eager experimenter in different fields of art, Wertheimer never really considered herself to be an artist in the full sense of the word.
All that changed when Aharon Farkash, who operates the Jaffa-based Farkash Gallery, wandered into her studio and instantly fell in love with her art. After five minutes he offered her a solo exhibition. Although she had been drawing, painting and sculpting since she was a small child and had participated here and there in group exhibitions, Wertheimer had never before had a solo exhibition.
Farkash was so enamored with her work that he convinced her that she could participate in the Venice Biennale. Although she could not represent Israel officially, there was a possibility of exhibiting in one of three Venetian palaces where artists from abroad are hosted by the European Cultural Center. Wertheimer was hesitant, but Farkash promised to arrange everything.
Accordingly, some of her works were presented for appraisal and were instantly approved, with the result that she’s exhibiting in the Palazzo Mora in the section devoted to personal structures. Her exhibition opened on May 13 and will remain on view till November 26.
Farkash enthusiastically wrote about her in the exhibition’s catalogue: “Ariela Wertheimer – a multidisciplinary artist: Ariela’s works include a wide range of techniques and she never rests, constantly looking for new material and techniques, including new surfaces to work on, using her photography, lighting and acrylic colors on a variety of materials and printing on canvas.
“Ariela’s works are an optical experience of a visual system, giving the onlooker a humane and personal experience that does not allow any room for indifference. In the framework of the Venice Art Biennale 2017, Ariela Wertheimer presents an exciting exhibition of illuminated artworks using a combination of techniques dealing with the depths of all of our souls. The exhibition presents works of light-boxes in a variety of colors and shades and a chandelier in the center of the space – all of which are lit up with interior lighting. The light-boxes are made from metal and are a combination of acrylic painting on wood panels with photographic transparencies on Plexiglas and LED lighting inside.”
Wertheimer, who went to Venice for the opening of her exhibition and stayed for a couple of weeks, was pleasantly surprised by reactions to her work.
“I don’t consider myself a professional artist,” she told Metro in a telephone interview from Venice. “I’m an artist in my soul. I do a lot of things around art, but I never thought of myself as an artist.”
Among other things, she designs jewelry and engages in creative photography.
When she hosts a Friday night dinner, she always makes the table look festive, and does it differently each time. She also loves to cook, and here, too, her creativity comes to the fore – not only in the dishes she concocts, but in their presentation.
This is something in which the 60-year-old Wertheimer has been able to indulge since her five children grew up. When they were small, she said, they were fed on the Israeli staple of schnitzel and potatoes, “but I always added something new so that they could learn to eat something other than just schnitzel.”
Wertheimer’s mother was a member of an artists’ club in Nahariya, but discouraged her daughter from taking up art as a profession. “You can’t buy bread with art,” she told the young Ariela, and so it was not until some 30 years ago that Wertheimer actually began to study art.
She says that she owes a lot to Farkash, who from the very beginning believed in her. At that first solo exhibition he arranged for her in his gallery, she showed 30 works and sold 15. Half the proceeds were his commission and the other half went to charity.
Wertheimer could well afford to give away the proceeds. If her surname rings a bell, it’s because she’s married to Eitan Wertheimer, the son of Stef Wertheimer, the founder of Iscar, of which he sold 80% in 2006 to Warren Buffet for $5 billion and the remaining 20% in 2013 for $2.05 billion. Stef Wertheimer is famous for building industrial parks and is also a generous philanthropist.
Ariela and Eitan Wertheimer are also philanthropically inclined, and separately and together work on a variety of hands-on projects that help people to realize their potential and thereby improve the quality of their lives.
The whole experience in Venice is, in Ariela Wertheimer’s words, “a huge excitement.” So many people came to see her art, she exclaimed, “My room was never empty.” Art lovers in Venice like to talk to the artist, and the various people who passed through her exhibition told Wertheimer that they were impressed with the energy, the colors and the light.
Of the individual exhibitions in the palace, hers was chosen as the best show by Italy’s Channel 5. She has seen the other exhibitions and has a high opinion of them. “I’m in good company,” she said.
Admitting to some trepidation before the opening of the exhibition, she is now much more confident in herself as an artist. “I’m not afraid any more. This has been a good place for me, and it looks as if I’m going to be more creative in the future.”
The most frequent reaction that she’s had from visitors to her exhibition is that it’s amazing how it brings out people’s feelings and attitudes to life.
She hesitates to call her work art therapy, but apparently that’s what is – not for her but for the viewer. “Some people look at it and start to cry,” she said. She hugged one woman who had been reduced to tears, and who had to said to her, “I found myself,” to which Wertheimer replied: “When you are in charge of what you feel, you are empowered.”
A psychoanalyst who came to the exhibition told Wertheimer that she would quote her in her own work. Wertheimer’s philosophy in response to the reactions to her art is: “People trapped in themselves need to get free. Take responsibility for your life and you free yourself.”
Although she will not be staying in Venice for the duration of her exhibition, she will be on a frequent commute from Israel, where she will be in her studio working on new projects.
She has not yet formulated her ideas as to genre or direction. “I’m very diversified in my work,” she explained, but she has no doubt that the muse will not abandon her.