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Estee Reshef – White Lillies and Aprons

2003 | Exhibition text

It has been for several years that the work of Haya Graetz-Ran is focused on the “silence of the women” – Women who contended a destiny, norms and difficulties. The common denominator of many of them was the concealment and the pretending.
Her artistic contemplation in this field began with an image of pioneer women who immigrated to Israel on the 1920s and others who came later and settled in the urban environment.
In the works presented at the exhibition, Haya observes an additional group, her female contemporaries at their childhood, girls of the generation of the establishment of the nation of Israel.
At first, she used her own family album; later on she researched and responded to national photography of pioneer women. This exhibition is based mainly on photographs she was given following an ad published by her in the local newspaper in Tiv’on. The ad included a request addressing people who were children at the 1940’s and 1950’s to allow her to study their albums. The response to the ad included several women and a single man (Menachem), out of them she picked what she considered suitable.
Haya does not conceal the photographic origin, she uses its documental power, in accomplishing the intertwining of Reality (“That had been”) and Truth (“That is that”) (as defined by Roland Barthes).
The directed photography is emphasized, like the embarrassed and hesitant postures that stand out comparing to the self confidence of the boy Menachem.
Haya crops, enlarges (blow ups), paints, focuses the gaze, filters details and eliminates the background and the setting. Her tactic clarifies that the figure in the painting is familiar though not recognized and that the statement is general. The works are dealing with violence (decapitating, amputation and the cuts on the cutting boards) and the vulnerability depicted in the innocent and soft bodies. The intensification of details confronts us with the exposed flesh, the shadow and the wounds. This is further amplified by the multiplicity of works on the series, as an irritating mantra that does not allow avoidance and also deals with the metaphor of the uniform clothing.
The white color, allegedly pure, is hiding a dark secret.
The series of aprons in the exhibition reveals the developing of the subject and based on a series of layers of aprons that were dressed on the dressmaking doll of the artist’s own mother. The observer is invited to scratch the layers. In a continuous dialog between her and Miriam Brock-Cohen, came up the idea of cooperating with aprons as an object and a surface. Haya had painted and Miriam had sewed and had weaved.
The form of the apron as a female body touches motherhood, comfort and laboring. While at the same time, to the words of Haya, “it separates head and body and represent all that I deal with: the impression of separation, the violence that invaded the most intimate places and left the individual hopeless, weak, without the collective support, so typical for the society in which we grew up, as the girls of the generation of the establishment of the nation of Israel.”
Haya chose to paint on the aprons the figure of Menachem the small boy, spreading legs, ruling the feminine space around him. His almost completed character, painted with relatively saturated hues and casting a shadow as of a soldier. Miriam, with the laboring identified with femininity, responds to the outlines of the painting with beads and to the soldier-like shadow with knitting of wool.
The aprons of Menachem “give hands”, refers a multi-player game and cast a rather aggressive feeling.

Estee Reshef, june 2003.
Written for an exhibition in Kiryat Tiv’on.