Arts Interview: Places Of Refuge

Images And Psychic States Surface At New Grounds

Maggie Grimason
5 min read
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From December through January, New Grounds Print Workshop (3812 Central Ave. SE) is hosting dozens of artists from around the globe as part of their International Print Exhibition, which runs through January. Among those selected for the show is multi-disciplinary artist Lihie Gendler-Talmor, from Israel, who now splits her time between that country and Venezuela. Her work in the show is a piece from a broader project, Being-Refuge, which uses a biblical concept as a point of entry to explore patterns of displacement and migration. She corresponded with us from Adamit, in the far north of Israel, before signing off with a quote from Gaston Bachelard, “All great, simple images reveal a psychic state … even when reproduced as it appears from the outside, it bespeaks intimacy.”

Alibi: How do your many art practices inform your printmaking?

After having delved deeply—over the past 20 years—into painting, sculpture and installation, photography, and video, during sometimes overlapping … stages in my career, in response to my expressive needs and [ideas], I have come to favor an array of resources—photo-etching and traditional etching techniques, together with innovative and alternative approaches to printmaking. … It is the use of this wide range of techniques—mixed, superimposed and juxtaposed—in ways that sometimes would make them seem competing and other times complementing … that has come to provide me with the greatest creative possibilities. My intention is not to give the technical aspect of my work a disproportionate importance … but rather to underscore the particular, and very specific, contribution of a set of tools to satisfy an eagerness to express while, as Wassily Kandinsky noted, keeping in mind that they are, essentially, just tools.

What first attracted you to printmaking?

Life goes in circles. I graduated as an architect in Israel and then studied poetics and comparative literature. I was always attracted to painting and photography. I lived in a small neighborhood in Tel Aviv, among visual artists and poets. While working at Tel Aviv University as a teaching assistant, I started taking painting classes at the studio of a renowned Israeli painter, whose concept of color and composition continues to guide me and is still present in my work as a printmaker. The offer to go to Venezuela followed shortly after. … Due to the laws … I could not enroll in any art school. Consequently, the only institution that offered me a place was an independent graphic arts academy. I had scarce, basic knowledge of this artistic discipline and look where I am today!

How did you got the idea for the Being-Refuge project, and what can you tell us about the piece that will be exhibited here in Albuquerque?

In the Being-Refuge series I was inspired by the concept of the “Cities of Refuge,” six biblical towns in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judea where perpetrators of unintentional manslaughter could claim the right to asylum and be protected from legally permitted blood vengeance. Three of them exist in Israel as archeological remains that I have photographed. The other three are located in Palestine or Jordan. Goodwill messengers—journalists and photographers—have photographed these places for me. The prints insert into the image of these sites a fictional construction, a temporary and precarious tent-like dwelling, which addresses the worldwide problem of forcible displacement of people due to political conflicts. … In the work I re-create [places that] are symbolic rather than illustrative, recreations of this spatiotemporal multiplicity, a map of melancholy, of exile and belonging. A visual register of the geographic-anthropological relationships between humans and our landscape, our environment, our place.

How do your identities as Israeli and Venezuelan inform the Being-Refuge project?

Living among diverse cultures has allowed me to develop empathy towards those who are forced to do the same, often, for the sake of their lives. I value my experience as a privilege, as the privilege of moving among two or more cultures. This awareness has led me to orient my work towards related subjects, such as the ever-changing concepts of territory and border. My recent work is also imbued with concerns … that are, in general, very current, and [give it a] political dimension. Not politics per se, but rather how politics affects the fate of people.

What do you hope viewers of your work will take away from the experience?

My photo-etchings almost always spring from my encounter with places, when an inexplicable combination of framing, angle, light and other elements creates a rightness, a feeling of necessity beckons me to take the picture. On the path from the photograph to the print I revere a fictional image. I would like to invite the viewer to join me on this journey, to sense the atmosphere of an unstable world in constant flux and tension.

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