Neta Levi, Israeli mixed media artist exhibit at the Leon Family Art Gallery

September 19, 2016

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September 21–October 23 Sandler Family Campus

In describing her creative process, Neta Levi says, ”When I’m closing the door behind me to my studio (garage)…I feel like I’m drifting away with my imagination. I celebrate my creativity with endless tubes of color and paint and pieces of fabric, papers, beads, no limits, no boundaries. It is my creation…”

This is her story.

Levi grew up in the small town of Rehovot, known as Israel’s Citrus capital, lined with lush flowering trees and fragrant orange blossoms, about 12 miles south of Tel Aviv. Her first vivid memories as a child were “doing art: drawing, cutting, tearing and gluing” alone, in her room. She would often rummage around a used bookstore that was next to her house, buy old magazines and cut out her favorite pictures to make collages.

Her passion for cutting up magazines moved on to her real love—fabrics. Nothing was safe from young Levi’s scissor skills— tablecloths, sheets and even her mother’s old clothes found their way into her evolving artwork. Astounded by the riots of color, intricate prints and exotic textures she discovered in the marketplace, she says, “I vividly remember my first visit to the fabric booth: fabrics hanging in the air, flowing in the wind. I loved to pass through and touch every one of them.”

When she was nine years old, she begged her parents to help her learn to sew. Her father introduced her to an “old ladies” sewing group that quickly adopted the young, creative protégé. These sewing skills became the career backbone for her adult life in Israel as a fashion designer.

After her time in the Israeli army, her brother offered to finance the opening of her “hip place,” Zanzibab, (a play on words with the Zanzibar and the Hebrew word “bhad” or fabric) which would become a thriving designer clothing business in the heart of Tel Aviv. She reminisces that her time as a fashion business owner was “a permanent ticket to a candy store.” Always a creative force in motion, upon the birth of her children, she began a line of children’s clothes called Gingiraf.

In 2002, with her husband’s job offer in Silicon Valley, they packed up their three children and moved to California. Displaced from her beloved Israel, she began to seek some artistic medium that would express her emotions and longings. It was in the sun-drenched valleys of California that her artistic life journeys found a home in mixed-media collage.

Essentially self-taught and resistant to traditional rules or formal art training, Levi prefers to come to her studio with “her mood.” This emotional state defines the luxuriant range of color seen on her canvases. “Colors provoke emotion,” she says. “I like to explore the juxtaposition and tension created by the relationships between them.”

The collection of work on display in the Leon Family Art Gallery celebrates her colorful life journey. Levi’s playful mixed media collages embraces her Jewish heritage, spiritual iconography, stories and songs entwine with landscapes and objects of everyday life.

Bold, confident and soulful, her work has the freshness and playfulness of an artist completely at home in her artistic medium, while spiritually grounded in the love of her Jewish/Israeli experience.

For information about the 6th annual Israel Today Series presented by Charles Barker Automotive, visit JewishVA.org/IsraelToday or call 757-965-6107. The Israel Today series is presented by the Community Relations Council of the UJFT, Simon Family JCC and community partners. 

Sherri Wisoff

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