Anat Getaniu – Are You Happy to Receive Guests?
1998 | Article
On the Works of Haya Graetz-Ran.
The imagery in Haya Ran’s art take the viewer to another time and to another place. The scenery, the figures, and the objects seen in the works, take the viewer back to the days where immigrants, bearing the European culture, were trying to find a place in the new Eastern Mediterranean environment.
The days of the pioneer settlement in Israel, and the culture and value system of the 50s – the days of the artist’s childhood, keep recurring in her works. They do not recur as part of some nostalgic musing, but from a critical, contemporary aspect, looking back with wide open eyes. In her work one finds a cross check between the national identity and the personal identity. It is an attempt to go back and reexamine the formative issued which shaped her (and her generation) as a person and as a woman.
“Are you happy to receive guests? Do you feed your children? Do you order them, or advise them? Do you punish them, or do you tell Daddy?”
These phrases and others, quoted in some of Haya Ran’s works, made up the “House Wife Questionnaire”, which served as the basis of a competition held by “Dvar-Hashavua” (1956 – a weekly publication), in which “the ideal house wife” was selected, according to the social conventions and values of the 50s. This phenomenon, supposedly a marginal one, is actually a mirror-image of society and contains some of the central aspect in Haya Ran’s art: The autobiographical aspect – the fact that her mother participated in the competition, and the desire to exhibit perfection, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the experience the artist went through as a child, standing abreast with her sisters, to be inspected by the competitions officials coming to her house; the values aspect – a discussion of somewhat judgmental social values, dictating the behavior of the individual in the collectivist society of the young state; the feminine aspect – a discussion of the woman’s roles, and of the undeniable determinations of society, and the interpersonal aspect – observing human-psychological ways of behavior between people in general, and specifically within the family.
The figures in Haya Ran’s paintings, originate in photos taken from the family album, and from repositories of anonymous photos, where the artist seeks the ones that reach to her. “Most figures that were drawn, or addressed by me, are an inseparable part of my life, or ones with which I have come to really empathize.” During the course of her work, she went from the personal to the general. Photos of the closed nuclear family, which served as a basis for an autobiographical exploration, were replaced by prototype like photos from the generation of the parents, and the pioneers, from a time near the establishment of the State of Israel. These serve as a basis for a more comprehensive discussion in the possibility of fulfilling national and personal dreams, when faced with the hardships of life.
Some of the photos were taken from the personal photo albums of the settlers of the Yizrael-Valley. The pioneers, and especially the women among them, fascinate the artist because they connect to the suffering motif, which she addresses throughout her work. Examining the human need to suffer for an “elated” ideal, previously brought into her work Christian motifs, and took her closer to the pioneer sacrifice. Sacrifices play a central role in the value system that guided the lives of the founding generatiori – choosing the collective over the individual, giving up personal fulfillment in favor society or for the children, forsaking all matters of mind and soul for the sake of creating “A New World”.
The original photos serve for Haya Ran as an object to look at, like the curtain folds she used to look at as a child, during the midday rest she was forced to take at her parents’ house. Years of observing seeped into her memory, and into her drawing skills, she says.
The act of silent observation exhibited by the drawn figures, goes below the surfece as well, to things which are unseen and left unsaid.
Seems that there is a desire to figure out the motivating, psychological force of the figures immortalized in the old photos. Haya Ran focuses on human relations, relationship between parents and children. Her paintings attempt to penetrate beneath the figures’ skin, into the enigmatic space between them. Eternal silence fills this space. It is a world of silences, recreated by the artist. A stock phrase in her childhood home – “this shouldn’t be discussed”, was repeated many times in many homes in those years, when they tried to cover the hard and painful parts, with a perfectly happy exterior.
The act of covering and hiding, is also a central component in the visual aspect of her work. The paintings appear to be inviting, deliberately hiding a discussion in complex processes that take place under the surface. The perfect finish speaks in terms of “high” art, European, non-local paintings. The formats are also reminiscent of religious Church paintings, or icons. The fabrics are painted by an arduous lengthy process, part of which are thin coats of oil and tempera. They are carefully designed, and rules by order and balance, but they only serve as packaging which lulls us into a deeo discussion of the seen and the unseen.
The text serves as a central component in the insertion of the exploring voice. The conflict between the text and between the images undermines the false completeness. The power of the written word goes right back to the artist’s home, where notes, written by her mother, served as a substitute to direct dialog.
In her early work the text created a surrealistic, cynical alienation. Later on, she used naive phrases, promising future happiness, phrases out of childhood diaries, and sayings which were typical of her parents and of the conventions of life in the 50s. In the works shown in this exhibition, most texts come from impersonal sources: The house wife questionnaire, writings by pioneers taken from confessional diaries collected in the “Book of the Collective” (published by “Yad Ben Tzvi”), and loaded words written on the backs of anonymous photos.
The voices in Haya Ran’s art come from various view points : the girl’s voice, the woman’s voice, the mother’s voice, the castrating voice, the stern voice, and the feminist voice.
” The works are understandings of reality, like a clear glass window pondering my subjective reality. The ways of understanding and dealing with the issued are feminine, and the figuring out of reality is based on all the human and political ingredients that feed me, as one who was in Israel when it the state was founded.”
Translated by Uri Bruck
The original document:
‘Housewife’, ‘Dvar Ha’shavua’ Newspaper, 1956.
Every woman who considers herself a good housewife, as well any person or institute that know a woman who excels in her duty as a housewife – are asked to make a proposal to the competition of “Housewife 1956”
How to send the proposal
Please fill the questionnaire and send it to the board of “Dvar Ha’Shavua”(…). A special committee will review each and every piece.
The winner of the competition will receive valuable prizes such as: A washing machine, a sewing machine, a radio, a stove, a refrigerator, a set of pots, products of a soap brand, and many other prizes.
The Principle duty of the mother
In my opinion, it is a very substantial duty being a housewife. Her obligations are innumerable, but the most important of them is – educating the children, which is mostly under the mother’s responsibility. The mother has to love this duty and give herself to it in all of her heart; the satisfying results will follow shortly.
This is the 10th year that my daughter is going to school. In all these years, not even once, was she late to the class neither came back home late. It is important, that the child, coming back home from school, will find an open door, a prepared meal and his mother, awaiting to welcome him and hearing about his day, on all these hours on which he was absent from home. This is how I do for all these years, and I am full of joy with the wonderful outcome. My children excel as pupils and also are exceptional friends to their parents. My daughter studies in a high school. Since age 13 she earns, by giving private lessons, all her expenses – study-books and theater shows. I do not take on my account only their success at school, but I do have a big share on it. I was always concerning and helping to my children and took care of their peacefulness and a tidy home.
My children are not delaying in their way home from school, since they know that at home their mother waits, with an open ear, to share with her their experiences, successes and difficulties with friends and at the classroom.
I honor the mother, that helps with the house’s economy, but I think that if it is not essential – she must not do it, because in a matter of fact, it comes on the children’s account, that need so much of the mother’s love and warmth. In her absence from home, she is unable to give much to them.
The woman can earn a living also from home. Sewing can be learnt at courses; shopping can be done once a week at the market; and more.
Not always, however, can the woman satisfy with her duty at home. The options are many in social activities. On evenings she can attend lectures, take part of activities in women organizations and find social satisfaction. But the most important obligation of the mother is – Educate children loyal to the nation, to the parents and teachers, and this is her duty to take care of it.
Rivkah Pundak, Holon
Mother has a good mood
Few weeks ago it was still hard and my mother worked at her shop and we were much time alone at home. But now it is wonderful. My mother do the house economy before noon and on afternoon she is available. And she always have a good mood. When she do the house work, she sings. Even my little sister, only 5 years old, sings already my mother’s songs. When we sit for lunch and dinner, mother makes wonderful dishes with mayonnaise, stuffed tomatoes and such.
When mother was still working at the shop, it was I who did all the shopping and I help mother with willingness, because my mother is always happy that I do something for her, therefore it is happiness for me too. My mother laughs all the time, even when something is wrong. She never says: do that or that! She says that she doesn’t like being ordered and what is disliked by you you shouldn’t do to the other.
Sewing machine – this is the first thing my mother bought for herself when she got married, because she sews everything for herself and for my sister by herself. She draws the dresses and then sews them. My father said that with any other woman than my mother would he arrive so far. I can write for you much more – for example, that the three of us are used to go the sea together with mother. When there is a children movie in the cinema, then we go the three of us. Once I invited my mother to a movie and we went just the two of us. It was very beautiful. In the recession I bought a chocolate bar for me and my mother and felt very good, all thanks to my mother. Now my hand is aching already.
Greeting from Nahariya and don’t forget the prize.
Michael Rauchberg (11 years old) , Nahariya.
A blessing to the enterprise
Gladly, I read all the articles and letters that appeared at “Dvar Ha’Shavua” following the housewife competition. I am all prayer that this enterprise would succeed and a woman of the community would be selected that represents the character of the woman and the mother as we would like to see her at our country: a good housewife and a devoted mother that can preserve her personality and give her children social and cultural values.
I wish you success. Carry this enterprise of yours properly, and no doubt, most of the women in the country will receive happily the opportunity to give expression to their thought and feelings in an area of life that is so important that unfortunately serves quite often as a comic material.
A senior housewife
Shoshana Bugginn, Kfar Sava.
In the margins of the questionnaire
When my husband went over the questionnaire together with me, he said: “It appears that you are a perfect housewife by the questions in this questionnaire”.
Such a discovery after six years of marriage – and even this only thanks to a questionnaire!
Ruth Schweimer, Nir-Moshe, a moshav at the Negev.
Country of origin
Year of Immigration
No. of people at home and ????
profession (besides housekeeping):
Place of work
How many hours do you work in your occupation.
Do you assist your husband (home and outside)
Profession of the husband
Conditions of residence
Do you have a made(full day, half a day, hourly)
Do the children help in the housekeeping? Willingly?
Do the husband help in the housekeeping?
Are you using any appliances in the housekeeping? Which?
Do you run the housekeeping along a budget?
How much do you spend monthly: Feed and cloth, education and culture, taxes etc. (sums or percentage)?
Do you manage to save money?
Do you make an effort to buy locally produced goods?
Can you assess the quality of fabrics, foods, ornaments etc.?
Do you know the prices of goods?
Do you concentrate your shoppings? (In the market? In the grocery? In a private store?)
Do you prepare in advance a list of groceries or choose from what you see in the store?
Do you decorate the house with images, objects, flowers?
Do you take care of a good looking clothing for you and your family members?
Is there a fixed place for each object and tool in your house?
Do you take care of fixing the clothing, or do you hand it to others?
Do you sew by yourself your clothes? And your chlidrens?
Do you know how to treat underwear and clothes so they last longer and how?
What are your favorite handicrafts?
Do you have a constant day routine, and what is it?
How many hours a day do you spend for housekeeping?
Do you manage to have time for a rest in daytime?
Do you have fixed days or fixed hours for the different works, shuc as cleaning, laundering, ironing, fixing, cooking, shopping, etc.
Do you go out fo visits, theater, cinema, concerts, lectures?
Do you have a yearly vacation, outside home?
How many children do you have and what are their ages?
Do you share the duty of their education with your husband?
Are your children polite, friendly, disciplined, independent?
Do you feed your children?
Do you give them orders, or advice?
Do you show interest in their studies? Help them with homework?
Do you show interest in their reading books? Do you supervise their reading?
Do you supervise their cinema visits?
Do you allow your children to participate a youth movement? Go to trips, campings?
Do you know the friends of your children?
Do you allow your children to play inside the house?
Who is tidying after them? You? Them?
Who is tidying their beds, toys, books?
Do your children take a shower everyday before sleep?
Do you play with them, tell them stories, sing to them, go to trips with them?
Do you punish them, or tell the father?
Are you familiar with taking care of illnesses, first aid?
Do your children have a constant day routine?
Do you give them pocket money?
Do they get a fee for helping at home?
Are you glad receiving guests?
Do you do a public work of any kind?
Do you read the newspaper, books? What book do you read now?
Do you have a hobby of any kind?
Are you familiar with rational nutrition?
What do you think is more important, a nutritious food or a tasty food?
Do you consider as important the aesthetic serving of meals, does it worth the efforts of preparing the table and the beautification of foods?
Do you cook for one day or for more?
Do you consider as important the sitting together of all the family members to the meal?
Who arranges the table? Who washes the dishes?
Do you use, vegetables and fruits by the season?
Do you know how to bake? Do you practice it as a habit?
Do you excel in preparing special foods, which are they?
Do you make conserves?
What do you do with leftovers of the foods?
Did you invent a method of some kind to help ease the housekeeping?
Do you have a good advice for saving work for the young housewife: In laundry, ironing, sewing, cooking, baking, taking care of the children etc?
Do you love the housekeeping work, are you happy to be a housewife?