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Jewish Journal

Celebrating Israel’s 60th, Skirball Style

by Tom Tugend

April 17, 2008 | 6:00 pm

Roman Freulich, Kibbutz Fruit Picker, 1960s. �© Skirball Cultural Center; Gift of Judith and Allan Caditz and Ellen and Joan Abramson

Roman Freulich, Kibbutz Fruit Picker, 1960s. �© Skirball Cultural Center; Gift of Judith and Allan Caditz and Ellen and Joan Abramson

There are many ways to celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary, and the Skirball Cultural Center is leading with its strength by offering a series of wide-ranging programs of art shows, music, film and lectures.

Two current shows pay tribute to the nation's distaff side: "Ziva Sivan: Painting Is Her Home" and "Israeli Women: A Portrait in Photographs."

The Sivan exhibition marks the first public showing of her paintings, drawings and sculptures in the United States, but she is relatively unknown even in her native country, though she was born in Jerusalem, rarely left the city and died there.

By her own choice, Sivan remained a nonpublic figure whose house was her studio. She rarely allowed a showing of her works and discouraged potential buyers.

Judging by the 33 works selected for the current exhibition by curator Barbara C. Gilbert, who also edited the handsome catalogue, Sivan's expressive, colorful and large-sized paintings on canvas and cardboard varied in style during a 30-year career from naturalism to abstract and back to realistic.

Throughout, Sivan's predominant subject was the female nude, to the point that her often Rubenesque models became part of her extended family.

Her smaller-sized bronze sculptures are again mostly female, with the exception of a particularly expressive figure of a seated old man.

Sivan lived from 1936 to 2004, during the last decade finding some relief from the pain of a malignant cancer through her art, which complemented, but did not overshadow, her domestic life.

As art historian Dalia Manor quotes Sivan, "I see myself, first and foremost, as a family woman. The home and the family are the most important things to me. The art -- which is my more public persona -- that's very important for me spiritually, but still, my first priority is my family."

In light of these sentiments, it was fitting that at last week's opening of the exhibit, which closes June 30, Skirball president Uri Herscher introduced, as honored guests, Sivan's husband, Uzi; son, Ehud, and daughter, Noa.

The companion photo exhibit of Israeli women represents an instant time warp, with tanned kibbutzniks plucking oranges in 1948 and their uniformed sisters somewhat unheroically bringing tea to male officers.

But, as the decades pass, there is also a suitably gowned Miss Israel 2000 and hip young Tel Avivians frolicking at the beach.

In between the two eras are some exceptional portraits by Moshe Milner of immigrant women from Yemen and Algeria, as well as contributions by Hollywood's own Roman Freulich and from documentary filmmaker Zion Ozeri.

A total of 63 images by 18 photographers make up the display, which runs through Aug. 10.

Other upcoming Israel at 60 events include the multicultural Esta musical ensemble, which will perform May 15, and theater artist Sara Felder, starring in the play "Out of Sight" on May 21 and 23.

For additional information, call (310) 440-4500.


Ziva Sivan, Musicians, 1988. Acrylic on canvas. Photo by Oded Antman

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