Israeli Artist Maps out the Possibilities of Geography

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A new exhibition at the Gershman Y explores the shifting nature of our relationship with both art ad the Earth.

“X” marks the spot at the Y — the Gershman Y, that is.

The art exhibit, “Reflective Geophilosophy,” by Israeli artist Dorit Feldman, opens on Sept. 17 at the Gershman Gallery.


The exhibition features 14 works by the artist, who works with photographs layered by scans of old maps and text to illustrate her contemporary take on history and geography and the construction of ideas.

This exhibit is part of a larger collection, “Visions of Place: Complex Geographies in Contemporary Israeli Art,” which is on display at the Stedman Gallery at Rutgers University-Camden. It is the largest exhibition of contemporary Israeli art shown in the U.S. in more than 10 years. Feldman’s work will be shown there as well.

“Reflective Geophilosophy” is partially funded by both the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation and the Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Susan Isaacs, co-curator of both exhibits and a professor at Towson University, made multiple visits to Israel with her co-curator Martin Rosenberg over the span of four years to collect art for the main exhibit and meet with artists in their studios, galleries and museums.

“I had never been” to Israel “before, so I decided it was time to go,” Isaacs said. “I found that there is just an incredibly artistically and culturally rich country.”

She came across Feldman’s work about a year and a half ago while searching for other contemporary artists in Israel. Isaacs had never heard of her work before, but she loved it so much that she decided to showcase it in its own gallery at the Gershman Y.

Some visual artists are not good writers — and vice versa — but Isaacs said Feldman’s skill for writing enhances her work. She expresses ideas in terms of philosophical relationships and the relationships between those ideas, languages and images.

A lot of Feldman’s work is made up of composite images of her own photos and scans of antique maps, usually overlaying with images of ancient Israel. She also layers text, which Isaacs said is like reading the artist’s thoughts and feelings from when she created that piece.

“Everything with Dorit is layers of meaning, layers of images — and they’re just incredibly stunning images,” Isaacs said.

Feldman’s artistic background comes from a Post-Structuralism philosophic French concept that emerged in the late ’60s and early ’70s. As such, her images are not binary, and there’s no single meaning to a work of art. The images have different meanings at different times to different people, Isaacs added.

For Isaacs, her favorite part of Feldman’s work is the combination of aesthetics and content.

“I’m not sure how many people in this region know a lot of contemporary Israeli artists, but there’s a lot of artists in Israel like that,” she said. “People can learn about the richness of Israeli art. This is just one artist at the Gershman, but her work is incredibly good.”

Feldman said her mixed media pieces relate to the landscape, history and archeology of Israel, while also integrating her point of view in a symbolic manner. Although most of her landscapes portray Israel, the Tel Aviv native created a Philadelphia map piece just for the exhibit.

She creates these images by layering them using a computer program. She stacks her own photos and on top of parts of paintings, deconstructing and reconstructing a new sequence that evolves into a single image.

Feldman said the pieces in this exhibit are her own reflections of her ideas, and the sequences of “the images coming together are reflecting to the viewer a lot of ideas to really think about later.” This conceptual art, which she described as land and body art, brings a synthesis of these languages and thoughts together.

“In my mind, the possible value of photography as art in the digital era is that of perception — correspondence with the cultural space of other creative thinkers in the realms of literature, updated scientific researches and philosophical texts, as sources of conceptual inspiration for imagery in the works,” she wrote.

“In the series of photographs on the subject of mapping, I chose to quote ancient prints and etchings of maps by scanning the originals and using them in the concrete space, on the surface and on deeper levels that were photographed.”

Feldman added that it is a personal need of hers to show the roots behind these concepts while also depicting a more constructive future.

Feldman will be able to discuss this and other concepts behind her art when she appears at the Gershman Y on Oct. 13 for a reception. It is free and open to the public. She said she’s looking forward to corresponding with people who have experienced her work.

Although this Post-Structuralism artwork has a lot of details and layers to it, Feldman said she was mainly inspired by her natural surroundings of Israel. By bringing a part of her culture to Philadelphia, she explained, those ideas expand even more.

“It’s my language, it’s my culture, but it becomes universal by showing ideas that could relate to anybody anywhere.”

Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0737.

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