This article was first published in The Times of Israel.
Israeli-born, New York-based installation artist Tirtzah Bassel uses multi-colored duct tape in the way that other artists use oil paints. Harnessing the potential of the hardware store staple, she creates mural-size scenes that audiences can observe near and far to appreciate the unusual medium’s detail and texture.
Last May, Bassel created one of her duct tape installations in a storefront in El Paso, Texas. The colorful work, titled, “Your Dreams Available Now,” depicts scenes from the border crossing between El Paso and Juarez, Mexico. It includes men in cowboy hats sitting and watching passersby, a woman selling flowers, people crossing bridges on foot and by bike, and even a statue of the Virgin Mary. The mural is meant to engage the local community in critical dialogue on the impact of the border.
It wasn’t by chance that Bassel created her installation in El Paso. She had been invited there by fellow Jewish artist Peter Svarzbein, an El Paso native. Svarzbein, who is a photographer and conceptual artist, is interested in subjects such as state security, bridges, border crossings and standing in line. Several of his recent projects deal with the nearby frontier, including “The El Paso Transnational Trolley Project,” which explores the tenuous relationship between El Paso and Juarez.
But El Paso residents would likely have never had the opportunity to enjoy Bassel’s thought-provoking installation had she not attended the first-ever Asylum Arts retreat in Garrison, New York in March 2013. It was there that she met Svarzbein, along with 63 other young Jews artists from North America, Europe, Latin America and Israel.
Asylum Arts is new global network for Jewish culture, and one of its main goals is to facilitate collaborations like the one between Bassel and Svarzbein. Formally established this past October following the successful March retreat, the organization hosts gatherings and training for artists and provides modest grants to foster connections to broaden the reach and impact of Jewish artists and arts institutions. Asylum Arts is supported in its pilot phase by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network and the Genesis Philanthropy Group.
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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.