Marlene Ferrer and Johanan Herson are “trying to be artists in the middle of Tel Aviv,” without relinquishing their environmental consciousness. Creating eco-art in an urban setting, Ferrer joined with Herson to found Gebo Gallery Studios as a working, teaching gallery that explores artistic choices in the context of social and ecological awareness.
The installation Wrapping Gebo – Art in Action celebrates the studio’s second anniversary. Ferrer and Herson will paint together on recycled paper that covers the gallery walls. “We are opening up a personal process and inviting people to observe,” says Herson.
Visitors will be able to interact with the work by adding words to the painting. The more introspective Ferrer prefers to work in silence; Herson says he will be open to talking to visitors while he paints.
Canadian-born Herson, who immigrated to Israel in the 1970s, has an extensive theater background, which certainly makes him the artist more likely to talk to the audience. Ferrer, originally from South Africa, has always found her inspiration and materials in the natural environment. In the Galilee she collected stones which she either painted or used to construct sculptures. When living in Herzliya she created totems from wood scraps. A move to Tivon ten years ago was once more reflected in her work. She began to collect palm leaves, assembling them into tall human-like figures.
Fragile, yet flexible, the structures are composed of elements leaning against one another with minimal use of nails or glue. Ferrer views her role as an artist is “not to fight nature, but to work with what is available,” a message she conveys to her students in the workshops taught at the studio.
Believing that “the power that keeps me alive and the tree alive is the same energy” she allows herself to be guided by the materials at hand, adding to the piece what she calls “the existential anguish of human life that haunts me” so that the palm leaf sculptures appear to enclose a spirit within them.
Urban living has introduced new challenges: “I always wonder whether I am going to find enough material,” she says, “whether they will clean up the palm leaves before I have a chance to collect them.” Ferrer is excited about exploring her new surroundings for materials and ideas, and expanding the gallery’s environmental focus.
Future events include a summer workshop to connect young people to working with authentic materials. One of the goals will be to reflect on the “waste” created by producing art and examine the possibilities of creating art differently, re-using and recycling those byproducts.
The installation opens on Thursday, January 8th at 20:30 and will be open throughout the month on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 17:00 – 22:00. On Thursday evenings there will also be dance, theater and musical events in the gallery.
Gebo Gallery Studios are located in the basement just outside America House at 35 Shaul Hamelech Street, Tel Aviv.
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